Deep Water Recovery receives out of compliance warning after failing to submit reports to province

Deep Water Recovery receives out of compliance warning after failing to submit reports to province

Deep Water Recovery, the company that has been dismantling derelict vessels in Baynes Sound since 2020, has received another out of compliance warning from the province.

In an April 22 letter from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, environmental protection officer Katie Howatt writes that Deep Water Recovery (DWR) was out of compliance with three sections of a pollution abatement order that was issued to the company on March 15.

The March 15 order required DWR to cease the release of effluent — found with concentrations of copper, lead and zinc that are above BC water quality guidelines — into the environment. It also said DWR had to hire a qualified professional to assess the site and submit monitoring reports, updates and recommendations to the ministry.

WATCH: BC Supreme Court rules on contentious drone video surveilling Vancouver Island company

Deep Water Recovery hired North Vancouver-based consulting firm Envirochem Services Inc., as the qualified professional to submit the reports. The Discourse reached out to Envirochem for comment but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

According to the letter, Deep Water Recovery failed to meet deadlines to submit a site activity and discharge identification update report and an effluent sampling and management plan to the ministry. The site activity report was due on March 29, 2024 and was submitted on April 4. The identification update report was due on April 15, 2024 and was submitted on April 16.

In the first instance, the ministry sent an email to DWR on April 2 about the missed March 29 deadline. DWR staff responded on April 3 saying the report would be submitted by the end of the week. The report was submitted on April 4.

DWR sent the ministry an email on April 16 saying the effluent sampling and management plan would be submitted by the end of the day. The out of compliance warning letter says that as of the inspection period (from March 15, 2024 to Apr. 16, 2024), the plan had yet to be approved.

Finally, Deep Water Recovery was deemed out of compliance for not submitting declaration of competency and conflict of interest disclosure statement forms to the province.

The out of compliance warning letter reminded the company that failing to comply with the requirements means it could owe up to $300,000 under the Environmental Management Act, or up to $40,000 under the Administrative Penalties Regulation.

READ MORE: A timeline of major ship-breaking events in Union Bay

This is not the first time the company has failed to submit monthly monitoring reports to the province.

In October 2023, Deep Water Recovery was issued a $500 administration penalty from the province for failing to meet deadlines for monthly monitoring reports.

Deep Water Recovery has 30 days from receipt of the out of compliance warning letter to notify the province about what corrective measures the company has taken and what DWR is doing to prevent future non-compliances similar to these.

The province also warned the company that it will be prioritized for a follow-up inspection, and a failure to take necessary action in compliance may result in “escalating enforcement action.”

Is ship breaking a provincial or federal responsibility?

Canada has no regulations specific to ship breaking. As a result, the rules that govern Deep Water Recovery’s operations are a cross-jurisdictional hodgepodge, involving at least two provincial ministries, three federal ministries, local land-use rules and overarching responsibilities to the Indigenous land rights of the K’ómoks First Nation.

Mark Jurisich, one of Deep Water Recovery’s directors, told The Discourse in a phone interview that the company is not producing effluent. He suggested that Fisheries and Oceans Canada would have shut the company down if the company was polluting waters in Baynes Sound.

“There is no effluent because we’re not doing anything,” Jurisich said.

Craig Macartney, communications advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), wrote in a previous email to The Discourse that “[DFO] assessments did not find any pollution or hazard, either under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act or the Canada Shipping Act.” The assessments were performed by the Canadian Coast Guard, but Macartney did not clarify what the assessments were. He did include that the Canadian Coast Guard does not have jurisdiction over ship dismantling activities that occur on land.

The Canadian Coast Guard “continues to work with federal and provincial agencies that have related jurisdictions and will intervene if the situation changes and warrants intervention by the CCG,” he said.

However, documents obtained through a freedom of information request indicate that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has taken some enforcement action at the site, though not related to effluent pollution. In 2022, DFO officials determined that Deep Water Recovery harmed fish habitat by mooring vessels and operating machines in the intertidal water. DFO ordered the company to immediately remove the three vessels grounded on the shore. At a follow-up visit a year later, one of the vessels had been brought up on shore, one had been pulled up mostly out of the water and the third remained beached.

Samuel Lafontaine, spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada, previously wrote in a statement to The Discourse that “ECCC is aware of the issues raised by the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound and takes information received from members of the public seriously. ECCC has been regularly monitoring incidents surrounding the shipbreaking facility located on Island Highway South in Union Bay, B.C. and has conducted on-site inspections to verify compliance with the Fisheries Act and [Canadian Environmental Protection Act].”

Madeline Dunnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

Local Journalism InitiativeLocal Journalism Initiative

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!