Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Concerns over Rusting Cargo Ship Abandoned on Shore of Southwestern Quebec Town

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Concerns over Rusting Cargo Ship Abandoned on Shore of Southwestern Quebec Town

Article excerpt

Worries over rusting cargo ship near Montreal

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BEAUHARNOIS, - As Mayor Claude Haineault tells it, the arrival of a hulking cargo ship along the shores of his southwestern Quebec town a little more than four years ago caught residents by surprise.

A local company had bought the decommissioned Kathryn Spirit, intending to dismantle it in the waters off Beauharnois and use it for scrap.

But following a series of controversies, the rusty vessel has sat idle since September 2011 without a disposal plan for the abandoned bulk carrier.

"We woke up one morning and there was a ship attached to a barge," says Haineault, pointing at the dormant ship on the shores of Lake St. Louis, which streams into the St. Lawrence River.

Haineault has been fighting to get the decrepit carrier out of the town, about 60 kilometres southwest of Montreal, and says it might be an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, given recent developments.

The local firm, Groupe St-Pierre, eventually sold the ship to a Mexican company, which apparently went bankrupt and abandoned it a few weeks ago.

Another Quebec firm that had been hired to maintain the vessel and operate the pumps to keep it upright recently stopped doing so after not being paid.

Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo reassured Haineault the Kathryn Spirit is not discharging any pollutants and that the "vast majority" of them were removed in 2013.

"The Quebec government has confirmed that the Kathryn Spirit currently poses no risk of environmental contamination and measures are in place to actively monitor the vessel to ensure no pollution damages occur," Tootoo wrote in a letter dated Jan. 22.

But Haineault argues that Beauharnois officials don't have a detailed account of the ship's contents. There has been increased vandalism, including two fires.

"What we know from the (former) maintenance firm is they recommended to our firefighters not to go on board the ship in case of fire," Haineault said. "They said it would be extremely risky with toxic products and the fumes it would produce."

Federal officials are scheduled to visit their Beauharnois counterparts on Monday to discuss the ship, which is currently encased in thin ice and anchored to a makeshift dock upstream from Montreal. …

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