The Alaska Highway was closed in both directions and some Taylor residents were evacuated from their homes after an unknown amount of gas spilled into the atmosphere at Spectra Energy’s McMahon Gas Plant Saturday afternoon.
Police said no one was injured.
The cause of the leak is not known.
Jesse Semko, a communications coordinator with Spectra Energy, said that they first learned about the leak at 2:25 p.m. He said it occurred at the on-site tank farm.
Minutes later, the RCMP were advised that a gas leak had occurred
“As a precaution, an evacuation of South West Taylor, an area of approximately three blocks by four blocks, was initiated by the Taylor Fire Department and the RCMP,” the release stated.
Fort St. John RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie did not have an estimate as to how many people live in this area.
Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser said that the plant leaked butane, and the gas could be seen going upwards of 50 feet, creating what he called an “impressive plume.”
It’s still unclear at this point how much butane leaked. Roxanne Daoust, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Safety Board, said she did not know how much butane was released. Messages sent to Semko asking for more information were not immediately returned.
As another precaution, drivers were prevented from entering Taylor via the Alaska Highway for about an hour.
Drivers within Taylor also were affected.
Natasha Umpherville was among those unable to commute through the impacted area. She was going to Grande Prairie via Taylor when the leak occurred.
Umpherville was parked just before the last intersection in town when she was stopped by emergency services at the top of the hill.
“They told us we needed to turn off our vehicle,” she said. “Then about 15 or 20 minutes later, another guy came up and told us if we could please evacuate to the next intersection. And we went back to the next intersection, and the guys at the fire hall said, ‘Hey, you can hang out here until we get things figured out.’”
Despite the circumstances, Umpherville said she did not feel afraid.
“They seemed to have it under control.”
Crews were already at work containing the leak, and by 3:50 p.m., the Spectra emergency response team had the leak fully contained.
“By 3:56 pm air quality testing indicated that there were no remnants of the product left in the air and the evacuation was called off,” the release stated. “Only a small portion of residents in the affected area had been evacuated by this time. The remaining residents were allowed to stay in their homes.”
Police also said there is no further cause for concern.
Environment Canada and the provincial Ministry of Environment were both notified.
The Alaska Highway was reopened, and residents were allowed back home.
Daoust said the Transportation Safety Board was still assessing whether or not this particular incident warranted an investigation.
The National Energy Board is conducting an investigation into the incident.