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Heating oil drains into Ottawa River after spill in downtown Gatineau, Que.

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An undetermined amount of heating oil has ended up in the Ottawa River after a spill in downtown Gatineau, Que., near the offices of the provincial environment ministry.

The spill happened at 170 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville during a delivery Friday, according to an email from ministry spokesperson Alexandre Ouellet, the regional director of the Outaouais Environmental Control Center.

Initially, the Quebec Ministry of Environment and Fight Against Climate Change said the spill, also near the city’s courthouse, was between 700 and 1,200 litres.

A Saturday morning update downgraded the amount to 200 to 300 litres. 

The spill happened at 170 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, according to a spokesperson with the environment ministry in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

No visible sheen on river Saturday morning 

Ouellet said the oil spilled onto the pavement and into a storm drain flowing into the Ottawa River. An environmental emergency team was sent in to ensure that necessary measures to protect the environment and keep people safe were put in place, he said.

Ouellet said temporary barriers known as booms were deployed to limit the amount of fuel that reached the river — and that they had contained most of the oil. 

On Saturday morning, new checks were made at the Ottawa River, he said, and no oil sheen could be seen on the surface.

The impact to the river is still considered low, and the recovery work was expected to wrap up around noon Saturday, according to Ouellet.

While it’s impossible to tell how much of the fuel reached the river because of its icy conditions, Ouellet said it appears the river wasn’t seriously affected. He said Gatineau’s drinking water quality was likely not compromised, but the city has been notified of the situation as a preventive measure.

Ottawa Riverkeeper executive director Patrick Nadeau says his group will be following up to see what happened during the oil spill. (Radio-Canada)

Ottawa River source of drinking water for 2 million 

Ottawa Riverkeeper, a grassroots charity dedicated to protecting the river and its tributaries, said that while it doesn’t consider the oil spill major, it will be investigating to understand precisely what happened and to make sure the emergency response was adequate and timely.

“An oil spill in the aquatic environment is never good news,” said executive director Patrick Nadeau.

The fact the oil spilled into an ice-covered river in wintertime, Nadeau said, will make the clean-up efforts difficult.

 “In our opinion probably very little oil that reached the Ottawa River last night would have been able to be recovered,” Nadeau said.

“Oil of course is toxic to the aquatic species, so it’s not good news to have that entering our waterways.”

The Ottawa River is also the source of drinking water for some two million people, he added.

A Petro-Canada truck is parked at the scene of an oil spill in Gatineau, Que., on Dec. 21. The company’s spokesperson said a third-party Petro-Canada fuel distributer, Petro-Canada Fuels, responded to the incident. (Radio-Canada)

Teams from the environment ministry, the City of Gatineau and Petro-Canada were on scene late Friday to contain the spill.

A Petro-Canada spokesperson told Radio-Canada that a “response plan was immediately initiated” following the spill and that the ministry and local officials had both been notified.

The City of Ottawa said it was also aware of the incident.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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