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The environmental threat of Canada's shipwrecks

  • Jan 20, 2016
  • 301 words
  • 2 minutes
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It’s more than just your typical eyesore. The rusting, stained 150-metre-long hull of the abandoned bulk carrier Kathryn Spirit anchored in Lake Saint-Louis near Beauharnois, Que., could leak toxic materials into the lake, which is part of Montreal’s supply of drinking water.

Earlier this week, Beauharnois mayor Claude Haineault repeated his calls to federal authorities to deal with the vessel before it potentially causes an environmental catastrophe.

Haineault may have good cause for concern. According to a recent investigation by the Global News program 16X9, there are 716 sunken vessels in Canadian waters that could pose environmental hazards, as shown in this interactive map. The wrecks’ locations are based on their own research of at-risk shipwrecks in Canada, since no federal authority has an inventory of sunken vessels in the country, according to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans official that was quoted by the program.

The investigation was launched following the 500,000 litre fuel leak in 2013 from Manolis L, a freighter that sank in 1985 near Change Islands, off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. With wrecks clustered on Canada’s East and West Coasts, as well as along the St. Lawrence River, the map offers a sobering look at the potential dangers these vessels may pose.

16X9 will air their full investigation, “An Oil Spill a Day,” on Jan. 23.

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