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Contaminated waste being removed from barge, officials say

Cleanup at Mamquam Blind Channel continues
A worker removes contaminants from a barge on the Mamquam Blind Channel.

Cleanup of vessels is continuing on the Mamquam Blind Channel this week.

On April 10, the Coast Guard took control of two barges, one of which was sinking in the channel, that are said by authorities to belong to local resident Steen Larsen. Both barges are slated for deconstruction and disposal.

The King Arthur barge was sinking and was filled with contaminants, Mayor Patricia Heintzman told The Squamish Chief. West Coast Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) is overseeing the operation, according to the District of Squamish.

Booms are in place and contaminated waste and water have been removed from the barge, officials said. All waste was being stored on a barge named Miller 202, which was towed to a waste facility in Surrey Tuesday, the Coast Guard said. Gasoline, diesel, oil, possibly creosote, and a number of metals as well as compounds consistent with benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene were discovered on the King Arthur, according to district staff.

No oiled or distressed wildlife has been observed, according to district staff.

The King Arthur will remain in Blind Channel until  a specialized barge arrives to remove it. Heintzman said it is expected to be removed in May.

According to the Coast Guard, Squamish Marine Services will maintain a watch of the King Arthur until it is permanently removed.

The Coast Guard will continues to monitor the landowner’s work to salvage the green barge. In the meantime, Heintzman said, Larsen has other boats unlawfully moored at the Oceanfront Lands. It would be up to Newport Beach Developments, which owns the land, to work to have them removed, she said.

The district, Coast Guard, WCMRC, Quantum Murray, Environment Canada, Keystone, Ministry of Environment and  Squamish Nation are collaborating on the cleanup, according to Heintzman.
She said the situation speaks to gaps in the “woefully lacking” federal regulations around vessels and who is responsible at what point. She wondered what will happen with tankers coming to the sound if the LNG project goes ahead.

The removal of roughly 300 creosote wood and steel pilings in the channel is also continuing.  Removing dilapidated, unauthorized vessels along with the toxic pilings is “monumental,” Heintzman said, and will open up the channel for all to enjoy.

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