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Oil slick spotted at controversial Vancouver Island shipbreaking dock

MP Gord Johns says federal government is failing in its protection of the coastline

Residents of Union Bay and area are becoming increasingly incensed with the lack of action against Deep Water Recovery, a shipbreaking business that operates on the Baynes Sound shoreline.

The complaints have always been it is not a matter of if there is an incident that compromises the ecosystem, but a matter of when.

‘When’ happened earlier this month.

A video showing what appears to be an oil slick – and confirmed to be so by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) - was posted to YouTube Thursday morning.

“We knew this was coming. There is no way you can break apart vessels like this, that have hazardous waste, without having an incident,” said Courtenay Alberni Member of Parliament Gord Johns. “We have been very clear that these old vessels can contain hazardous materials like asbestos and Mercurian lead and PCBs and carcinogenics… and sure enough, we’ve had this incident that has happened. We have received response from the DFO, but the fear is that without a strong response from the federal government, they are going to continue.”

Johns saw the video Thursday morning and immediately started correspondence with the DFO, which acknowledged the incident in question.

According to correspondence received by Johns, the Emergency Management BC (EMBC) office advised an environmental emergency response officer (EERO) of “a reported rainbow sheen on the ocean around a shipbreaking operation on the foreshore of Union Bay.”

The Canadian Coast Guard was called in, and confirmed the leakage, saying that the “source is land-based from a former vessel that is currently being pulled further up the shoreline to be deconstructed.”

The EERO contacted Deep Water Recovery Inc., and Environment Canada Enforcement attended the site for inspection.

Upon inspection it was discovered that an airbag that was used to move the vessel ruptured and agitated the water which may have impacted the containment boom, possibly releasing contained oil.

DWR personnel continue to monitor the situation onsite, but were not available for comment.

“They (Union Bay residents) are frustrated and I share their frustration,” said Johns. “We have raised this in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, eight times now I have raised it either at committee or in the House of Commons during Question Period, and adjournment proceedings… about the lack of regulations that exist to protect our coastal communities when it comes to shipbreaking or ship dismantling. For a country that has the longest coastline in the world and touts its ocean protection plan, it’s failing miserably in this regard.”

“You don’t need to be a scientist to know that eventually, things flow downstream in our coastal environment, and without adequate facilities for shipbreaking, that there is going to be an incident that takes place,” said Johns. “The federal government’s position, and it’s totally irresponsible, is that they can’t act unless there is an incident, which is absolutely unbelievable. They need to put framework and guidelines in place so that an incident like this doesn’t take place.”

On April 14, the CVRD filed a notice of civil claim with the Supreme Court of B.C. “seeking assistance from the court to stop shipbreaking operations at 5084 Island Highway.”

In August, the CVRD issued a statement saying it “… is fully committed and significantly into the process of obtaining a permanent injunction to cease the use of this site for shipbreaking purposes.”

The notice is still with the court.

The district said DWR responded to its notice and denies it is operating in contravention of Industrial Marine (IM) zoning. The CVRD does not have the ability to issue a stop work order for land use violations, but any continued use of the property for shipbreaking will be used as principal evidence in the case against DWR.

Deep Water Recovery CEO Mark Jurisich had not responded to requests for an interview by press time.

CVRD chair Jesse Ketler told the Record that she is unable to comment, due to the issue being before the courts.

The Record also reached out to Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne for comment, but had yet to hear back as of press time.

RELATED: CVRD pursues permanent injunction to stop shipbreaking in Union Bay
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