War ship still waiting to be sunk

HMCS Annapolis

Christine Wood / Staff Writer
July 10, 2014 10:32 AM

The Artificial Reef Society of B.C. wants to sink the HMCS Annapolis, currently anchored off Gambier Island, to create an underwater diving attraction. Environmental group Save Halkett Bay is opposed and fears toxins may still be onboard the former warship.

The HMCS Annapolis, a 115-metre decommissioned war ship, is still floating near Halkett Bay, and the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. (ARSBC) is still waiting for the final OK to sink it.

“We have no official sink date at this point,” Howard Robins, president of the ARSBC told Coast Reporter this week. “We’re still going through regulatory procedures.”

Those procedures include getting written approval from Environment Canada, which ordered the clean up of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found on the ship in February of this year.

PCBs are industrial chemicals that were widely used in manufacturing until the late 1970s when their negative health effects became known.

PCB exposure has been linked to decreased thyroid function, decreased immunity and even cancer.

Environment Canada tested for PCBs after being pressured by the group Save Halkett Bay, which has been opposed to the Annapolis sinking since it was first pitched in 2009.

Once the chemicals were discovered, a hazardous materials clean up team, Jenkins Marine Ltd., was hired by the province to remove them. That work is now complete; however, a final inspection still needs to be done.

“So we’re waiting to hear from Environment Canada about the results of the clean. We’ve said a number of times that at this point in the process it’s Environment Canada’s responsibility to report on this cleaning in a transparent way and to report on it based on the opinion of independent third party experts, because we’ve been told for five years that the ship is clean, and in fact it’s not, so why should we believe them now? We don’t actually believe that the ship is clean,” said Gary MacDonald, with Save Halkett Bay.

“From what we’ve read and understand about the level of contamination on this generation of ships, down in the States it costs more than $10 million to clean a ship.”

The provincial government paid Jenkins Marine Ltd. $860,000 to do the work.

“That’s a lot of money to the Canadian taxpayer, but I doubt that it’s really done the job,” MacDonald said.

Even if the ship is found to be free of hazardous materials, there is one more hurdle that could stop the sinking. There is currently a lawsuit against the ARSBC by Wesley Roots of WR Marine Services, who has paid over $95,000 in moorage fees on the Annapolis while it’s been anchored off shore.

“Either the ARSBC will lose control of the ship because the court will say ‘you can’t pay, so the guys you owe the money to can go around and sell it’ or they’ll come up with the money, or maybe the whole thing will just get delayed for a while,” MacDonald said.

Robins would not comment on the court case, but a post on the ARSBC website in June noted the ship had been “turned back over to the reef society.”

“Our next steps are to finalize outstanding regulatory approvals. We are trying to schedule a final inspection with Environment Canada in the near future,” ARSBC director Rick Wall wrote.

© Coast Reporter


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