B.C. Government Issues Cleanup Order for Controversial Scrapyard

Courtesy NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Published Apr 8, 2024 9:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Authorities in British Columbia have imposed a pollution abatement order on a local ship recycling company, Deep Water Recovery (DWR), handing a win to local residents who opposed the firm's operations. DWR is now required to stop discharge of hazardous material and toxic effluent that pose health, safety and environmental risks.

In issuing the Pollution Abatement Order, B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said that repeated tests on samples collected from the site since 2022 have shown high concentrations of a retinue of pollutants. These include cadmium, copper, iron, zinc, and septic system discharge among many others. The agency concluded that it had reasonable grounds to conclude that "a substance is causing pollution on or about lands" occupied by DWR. 

The order follows extended protests by Union Bay residents under the banner of Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound (CCOBS). The residents have been demanding the shutdown of the shipbreaking site, where DWR is dismantling former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) oceanographic research and survey vessels Miller Freeman and Surveyor. (NOAA has no ongoing connection with these retired vessels.) The community group - supported by NGO Shipbreaking Platform - argued that the operation risked releasing dangerous pollutants into the marine environment. 

The order demands that DWR must immediately cease releasing toxic wastes to the environment and bring on board an independent qualified professional to undertake a detailed review of the site and ongoing activities that could be contributing to the discharge of contaminants.

B.C’s Ministry of Environment warned that failure to comply with the order could see DWR face penalties of up to C$300,000 in fines, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

Established in B.C. in 2016, DWR is involved in the salvage, dismantling, and recycling of marine vessels, barges, and railroad assets such as locomotives. In 2019, the company purchased a multi-zoned property in Union Bay, including a 15-acre industrial marine site and a 27-acre water tenure specifically for vessel recycling.