Pollution charges welcomed in Robson Bight spill
VANCOUVER -- Living Oceans Society congratulates the Federal Crown for laying charges against the parties allegedly responsible for last summer’s barge spill in the Robson Bight ecological reserve. Campbell River’s Gowlland Towing Ltd., tug boat master Carl Theodore Strom, and logging contractor/equipment owner Ted LeRoy Trucking Ltd. face a number of pollution related charges and are expected to appear in Provincial Court on July 21.
“The charges send a strong message to shippers that polluting our coastal waters is a criminal act;” said Jennifer Lash, Living Oceans Society’s Executive Director. “Tax payers should not be on the hook to clean up after industries that pollute our environment.”
A fuel truck containing 10,000 litres of diesel, and ten other pieces of equipment, fell off a barge being towed by Gowlland Towing Ltd. and now sits on the bottom of Robson Bight. Corrosion of the truck’s fuel tank is a major concern and no one knows how long it will be until leaks occur.
“Although we are happy to see that charges have been laid, it is tragic that Transport Canada did not act on recommendations made in 2002 that identified this type of barge spill as the highest risk associated with oil transport in B.C. waters,” Lash said. “Almost a year after this spill, the mess remains on the seabed of one of the world’s most important ecological reserves.”
The 2002 report commissioned by Transport Canada was written by naval architects Robert Allan Ltd.
Robson Bight is an ecological reserve created to protect vital habitat for B.C.’s Northern Resident orca community who are listed as “threatened” under Canada’s Species At Risk Act. Whale lovers around the world had hoped that the recovery operation would have been completed before the orcas returned to Robson Bight this summer.
The governments of Canada and B.C. have issued a request for proposal for a salvage operation to recover the sunken logging equipment but have not yet contracted with any company. Until recently, Living Oceans Society encouraged B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment to ‘direct award’ the recovery operation because of the urgent nature of the situation. Now that the whales have returned to the area for the season, however, it is unlikely a recovery will occur before the fall.
Should the recovery be delayed until the fall, a water quality monitoring program and a disaster response plan are critical to safeguard the health of the whales this summer.
Jennifer Lash, Cell: 250-741-4006