Coast guard investigating sunken ship leaking oil off Newfoundland coast

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The Canadian Coast Guard was able to deploy an ROV Monday down to the Manolis L. to see what has caused additional oil to be found on wildlife and the shorelines of the Change Islands region.

CCGS George R. Pearke will remain in the Change Islands area during the holidays to keep an eye on the oil leaking reportedly from the Manolis L.  — Submitted photo

The paper carrier, which sank in 1985 near Change Islands, has been leaking oil since last winter, but there was a more extreme event this past weekend when residents spotted oil in and around the shoal water and on the shoreline.

In July, the coast guard worked on the vessel to contain the leaking oil. It used a neoprene seal on one part of the hull and a cofferdam on another.

“We confirmed that the neoprene seal, near the middle of the ship, continues to work. We did however discover that a cofferdam we installed to capture oil from one of the leaks has shifted four to five metres due to sea conditions,” a coast guard email stated.

The coast guard’s Bob Grant described the cofferdam as an oil-collection system similar to an inverted funnel. It used that in one area of the vessel rather than another neoprene seal because there was too much damage in the area.

“So what has happened, I guess, with all the currents and the weather systems that are coming, this is after shifting,” said Grant.

The cofferdam can hold 3,200 litres of fuel, but it’s not known how much was in it when it shifted or how much leaked out.

“Our immediate focus right now is to get this cofferdam system — re-evaluate the design — and either modify the one that’s there or to install a new one,” Grant said.

The coast guard is working with oceanographers to learn as much as they can about currents in the area so it can apply that knowledge working on the new cofferdam system.

As for the oil that leaked, an environmental response crew has been in the area.

“There is still a small amount of fuel discharging from the original tear in the hull, approximately four litres per day.

This oil is non-recoverable and will dissipate through wave action,” the coast guard said in its email.

Grant describes the impact on the shores as “minimal,” but that description and the coast guard’s plan is doing little to ease the mind of local hunter, Barry Brinson.

On Monday, Brinson shot three eider ducks. When he collected them, all three were too oil-soaked to keep. In the many inlets and along the shoals of Change Islands and Fogo Island, Brinson said there are many  birds that could be oiled.

“There’s hundreds that nobody knows about.”

While Brinson blamed government and not the coast guard, he said this newest plan to fix the cofferdam is just window dressing.

“They’re more or less just satisfying the people. They’re not gonna clean it up. This will all leak out and go out in the water. It will be around the shores. It will kill a lot of birds and nobody cares,” he said.

It may take a long time, but he said bit by bit, over the years, the oil will just all leak out. Then the problem will be solved as far as government is concerned, he said

The cofferdam will be rejigged after Christmas.

The CCGS George R. Pearkes will remain in the area during the holidays. It plans to pump the remaining oil from the cofferdam when weather permits, but the coast guard said that’s a complex process requiring a flat, calm day.

As for any long-term plans to remove the oil from the Monolis L., Grant said the coast guard is still looking at proposals and options, but have made no decision whether anything will be done.

Geographic location: Change Islands, Newfoundland, Fogo Island

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  • jamie
    December 26, 2013 - 11:48

    Seams like only time government does anything is if green peace is getting all media. Sad.