Non-profit files injunction to stop ship sinking

A non-profit society is asking the Federal Court to stop the planned sinking of a former Canadian navy vessel in a protected marine park near Vancouver. The Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society filed court documents Jan. 6 seeking an injunction to stop the sinking the decommissioned, 110-metre-long HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay Marine Park.

A spokesman for the group said it had a paint sample from the ship tested by an independent laboratory, which found highly toxic compounds called tributyltins.

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“We don’t understand why the government isn’t forcing the proponents to prove the ship is clean instead of being dragged into court to make it uphold the law,” said spokesperson Gary MacDonald in a prepared statement.

At issue is the claim by the diving group attempting to sink the destroyer as an artificial reef that the ship is clean of contaminants and toxic chemicals.

The group — the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. (ARSBC) — is supported by the scuba diving industry, which believes sinking the ship will increase diving tourism.

The ship is set to be towed to Halkett Bay off Gambier Island, just a short boat ride from Vancouver, and sunk in order to be used as an artificial reef and site for divers.

MacDonald’s group has called for a third-party review of the permit issued by Environment Canada. The group claim inspectors did not properly test whether toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, that were earlier found in the ship had been cleaned up.

“It’s hard not to think that the federal environment minister and the Harper government is indulging in make-believe,” MacDonald added.

ARSBC president Howard Robbins disputes the notion the cleaning process has been inadequate.

“We follow Environment Canada’s rules,” said Robbins. “They’re the ones that set the standards and they’re the ones that have certified the ship as ready to go and clean for the environment,” he said. The remaining opposition is simply NIMBYism masking itself as environmentalism.”

-          With files from Brent Richter

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