diesel spill

Waterfowl in Toronto rivers and Lake Ontario could be in danger after major diesel spill

A major diesel spill on a Toronto highway could seep into rivers and creeks impacting waterfowl.

After a diesel tanker truck rolled over on the Highway 427 northbound ramp to Highway 401 on Feb. 22, the fuel started to spill onto the roadway. The fuel tanker truck landed on its side, leaking diesel long after the crash.

Fortunately, there were no injuries, said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

Fire and environmental crews were called in to help manage the spill and special equipment was needed to transfer the fuel from the damaged truck to another vehicle.

There were dams set up on the roadway with a vacuum to suck up the fuel but some may have spilled over the highway.

"With the rain coming down as well [there are] additional concerns that it's going to go to the bottom, push the diesel to the top and potentially have it breach these dams," said Schmidt.

The mess took several hours to clean up.

The 52-year-old driver from Markham, was charged with careless driving.

The spill is raising fears about contamination in area waterways including the Credit River, Mimico Creek, Etobicoke Creek and Lake Ontario.

One concerned resident suggested people keep a close eye on waterfowl which will "appear wet and darker than usual," according to a post in the South Etobicoke Community Group.

Waterfowl shouldn’t look wet, even in the rain, as they have natural waterproofing.

"Oil causes them to get water logged and unable to fly properly and can cause other issues," the post reads. "They may be trying to shake water off constantly or obsessively trying to preen their feathers."

When oil sticks to a bird's feathers it can impair waterproofing and exposing them extremes in temperature, according to International Bird Rescue.

"This can result in hypothermia, meaning the bird becomes cold, or hyperthermia, which results in overheating. Instinctively, the bird tries to get the oil off its feathers by preening," the bird rescue notes.

Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre tells blogTO they haven't received any reports of birds impacted by the oil spill yet but said it would be helpful if people in the area could be on the lookout.

If people spot waterfoul covered in fuel or any wildlife in distress, they can contact the Toronto Wildlife Centre's hotline or fill out the online form with photos.

This wouldn't be the first time the centre has helped after a fuel spill. In the fall of 2020, roughly 2,000 litres of diesel ended up in the Credit River after two oil barrels leaked in the stormwater system. Rescue teams from the Toronto Wildlife Centre and Mississauga Animal Services and volunteers helped save as many birds as possible.

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