May 15, 2014
Gambier Island, BC – Local and regional groups are once again raising concerns about the cost and environmental impacts of the planned sinking of the decommissioned HMCS Annapolis warship to create an artificial reef. Specifically, they want an independent source to verify the quality of toxic cleanup before there is any further discussion of sinking the Annapolis.
“Despite an $865,000 clean-up, sinking a 115-metre former warship in Howe Sound will cause “serious environmental damage,” says Don Whyte, Executive Director of the B.C. Hazardous Materials Association. “We adamantly oppose the sinking and the whole process used to supposedly ‘clean’ this ship,”
The ex-Annapolis, which was accepted as a “gift” by the Province of B.C in 2011, was tested for hazardous materials by the federal government in response to pressure from project opponents. The testing revealed parts of the ship contain the toxins known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at almost eight times the legal limit.
Last month, the federal government awarded the contract for cleaning the ship to Jenkins Marine Ltd., a custom boat building, repair, and refit company with limited hazardous materials experience, according to its website. The clean-up is taking place while the ship is anchored near Gambier Island, north of Horseshoe Bay.
While the environmental groups seriously question the quality of toxic clean-up, they also raise the issue that there has been no comprehensive provincial or federal government monitoring of potential environmental damage after past ships have been sunk, leaving the long term impacts of these reefs unknown.
”We join local groups in questioning every aspect of the decision to sink this ship in our local waters,” says Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance. “With questions outstanding about the process and the toxins that remain on the ship, we call on the province to stop the irresponsible practice of creating artificial reefs.”
The groups are further concerned that the provincial and federal government agencies have allowed the Artificial Reef Association of BC (ARSBC), according to their website, to potentially expose hundreds of uninformed and untrained volunteers to toxic materials such as asbestos, lead, and PCBs during the thousands of hours spent attempting to decontaminate the ship. This work occurred prior to Environment Canada surveying the ship and the contract being awarded to Jenkins Marine Ltd.
“It took years to get the government to act responsibly and actually test this ship for pollution,” said Gary MacDonald, spokesperson for Save Halkett Bay Campaign. “Now that they’ve discovered PCBs, we want to know what happened to all the potentially hazardous material that was already removed from the ship.”
Community residents in Halkett Bay, the small cove on Gambier Island in which the ARSBC plans to sink the ship, have fought against the proposed sinking for more than five years.
Hazardous Materials Association
Contact: Don Whyte
Georgia Strait Alliance
Contact: Christianne Wilhelmson
Save Halkett Bay Campaign
Contact: Gary MacDonald