Recovery efforts of a partially submerged barge in the Picton Harbour continue Tuesday with a comprehensive focus on containment of pollutants including the activation of the municipality’s Emergency Control Group.
On Friday, a barge owned by Galcon Marine partially sank while docked at Picton Terminals. According to McKeil Marine, the company that chartered the barge, it was intended to be used as a temporary dock and work platform. There were no injuries and no loss of pollutants except for two five gallon (19 litre) buckets which were on the barge deck at the time. Approximately 30 litres of substance released is being contained by pollution control equipment, and is expected to evaporate. There is believed to be approximately 1,200 litres of diesel and 100 litres of hydraulic fluid. Both tanks are self-contained and inside the machinery space.
In a press release on Tuesday, the County of Prince Edward stated in response to the recovery efforts mayor Robert Quaiff has activated the municipality’s Emergency Control Group as a precautionary measure. The group has been on high alert since Friday and is made up of mayor Robert Quaiff, CAO James Hepburn, Commission of Engineering, Development and Works Robert McAuley, Fire Chief Scott Manlow, the Ontario Provincial Police, public health representative and councillor Barry Turpin, County clerk Kim Whyte, social services and communications coordinator Lisa McLennan.
“According to the County’s Emergency Plan and provincial regulation, the emergency Control Group can be activated when there is heightened threat to the well-being of the community,” said mayor Quaiff. “Given the proximity of the submerged vessel to the Picton-Bloomfield water intake, and the potential for contaminants to enter the water during the upcoming salvage phase, the risk— although believed to be quite low—was deemed sufficiently high to engage the emergency Control Group.”
Quaiff said at this moment in time, the municipality’s primary concern is for the protection of the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system. Since Friday, precautionary measures in accordance with the municipality’s water Operations Contingency Plan was put in effect at the Picton-Bloomfield Water Treatment Plant. In accordance with the Contingency Plan, the water system reservoirs have been filled in order to maximize the system’s ability to sustain any potential treatment plant shutdown. Water operators are monitoring the plant regularly for any evidence of contamination approaching the intake, and the municipality is prepared to stop taking water from the Bay if the situation requires it.
“Should additional contaminants enter the Bay, the municipality is prepared to declare a state of emergency and implement further procedures to protect the safety of the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system,” said Quaiff.
In an earlier statement by McKeil Maine on Tuesday, it stated a protective pollution boom has been deployed around the barge since Friday and will be expanded Tuesday to encapsulate a larger area. It will remain in place for the duration of the salvage operation.
“Salvage is a complex process, requiring meticulous planning and often a series of preparatory actions,” said Chris Kirby, Director of Project Management at McKeil Marine Ltd., and Salvage Master for the operation. “Today we are taking additional precautions to protect the environment and contain pollutants. We continue to work in close collaboration with the Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the Eastern Canada Response Corporation Ltd.”
The statement goes on to say that with the breaking up and melting of ice in the area, there is a small amount of sheen present on the water between dock and the barge, which is positioned about 50 feet (15 metres) offshore. This area will be captured in the expanded pollution boom. It is believed that this sheen is comprised of the small amount of pollutants that were released when the bow of the barge initially became submerged. There is no evidence of leakage from the barge.
“McKeil continues to work closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard ECRC to mitigate environmental impact. While the barge is owned by Galcon Marine, McKeil is leading the effort with respect to environmental protection. McKeil is working closely with Galcon Marine on the recovery of their barge, which will be returned to Galcon Marine in Toronto once the salvage operation is complete,” said Kirby
Barge recovery is set for Wednesday, weather permitting.
“The cause of the incident is still unknown,” said Transportation Safety Board Regional Senior Investigator-Marine Captain Steven Neatt. “We are in constant contact with the owner of the barge and continue to follow the situation closely.”