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B.C. orders Union Bay shipbreaking operation to send reports about pollution

Penalty for not complying could exceed $300,000 or lead to jailtime, Deep Water Recovery can appeal
A photo dated March 25, 2024 shows the Deep Water Recovery site in Union Bay. (Photo: All things Union Bay)

A ship recycling site in Union Bay has been ordered to comply with pollution abatement tasks.

The Province of B.C. on March 15 outlined actions expected of Deep Water Recovery, which operates a shipbreaking site in Union Bay. The property along Island Highway has several beached vessels on site to be deconstructed — which authorities believe damages the environment.

“I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that a substance is causing pollution on or about lands occupied by Deep Water Recovery Ltd.,” wrote Jennifer Mayberry, director of compliance at the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Deep Water Recovery is hereby ordered to comply with the required actions.”

Deep Water Recovery was ordered to immediately cease discharge of waste that has above-regulation levels of copper, lead and zinc. By March 29, the company must submit a report detailing all activities on site that would contribute to pollution.

RELATED: Rally decries lack of federal regulation targeting Union Bay shipbreaking operations

Deep Water Recovery must also see that a plan is produced before April 16 by a professional and submitted to the province for approval. The plan needs to show that a professional will inspect for contamination at least twice per week. It must also propose actions to curtail the release of chemicals.

“Failure to comply with the requirements of a pollution abatement order is an offence under the Environmental Management Act… and may result in legal action,” wrote Mayberry.

The director referenced a section in the Environmental Act, which says that a person who contravenes an order made by a director is liable upon conviction to pay as large as a $300,000 fine or serve up to six months of jail time, or both.

The boat recycling company will have to implement this plan before a deadline set out by the ministry at a future date. Once per month afterward, it will need to ensure that a report is submitted to the province including lab reports for toxicity, inspection summaries and photographs of the inspections that took place.

Deep Water Recovery Ltd., a ship-breaking company located in Union Bay, was a topic of concern for residents and K’ómoks First Nation alike. File photo

The Record reached out to Deep Water Recovery for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Area director Daniel Arbour told the Record the order from the Province of B.C. seems to have “confirmed what the public suspected: that it was a pollutant.”

While saying the order to ensure pollution doesn’t happen is a good thing, Arbour noted everyone he’s spoken with also recognizes that the work done on site is a necessary thing that society must do.

Arbour said it’s important that shipbreaking operations follow tighter regulations, such as being pulled off the shoreline. He also noted that the operation might be out of place, being on the shore near the largest shellfish-producing area in the province, in Baynes Sound.

The Province of B.C. order said it was backed by inspections conducted two years ago. In 2022, officials found that the Union Bay site was designed so that fluids associated with dismantling boats ran into collection pools, which later drained directly into the ocean without being treated.

Deep Water Recovery has the option to appeal the pollution abatement order. This must be filed within 30 days after the notice of the order was given.

Last year, residents of Union Bay rallied in protest of the operation. Organized by a group called the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound, the group complained of potential environmental consequences due to the boat-dismantling operation on the shore of Union Bay.

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Connor McDowell

About the Author: Connor McDowell

Started at the Record in May 2023. He studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax
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