Hartley Bay calls on BC Ferries to resume monitoring leaking fuel from Queen of the North

The band council in Hartley Bay is calling for BC Ferries to resume its daily monitoring for fuel leaking from the wreck of the Queen of the North, which sank in the waters near the small Aboriginal community five years ago after slamming into Gill Island.

The band council in Hartley Bay is calling for BC Ferries to resume its daily monitoring for fuel leaking from the wreck of the Queen of the North, which sank in the waters near the small Aboriginal community five years ago after slamming into Gill Island.

The sunken ship, which claimed the lives of two people, is believed to have 220,000 litres of fuel inside that has been slowly seeping out ever since. BC Ferries estimates that about half a litre escapes the wreck every day.

For five years, BC Ferries had been paying to have the waters around the Queen of the North monitored every day for fuel or oil collecting on the surface of the water. However, they ended the monitoring at the beginning of March after the company’s insurance provider advised them that it was no longer necessary.

“Basically, they were seeing extremely minor leakage from the wreck, and with daily monitoring it doesn’t assure that a spill is going to be spotted or not. So it wasn’t providing any useful data,” says a representative from BC Ferries, Deborah Marshal.

According to Hartley Bay Band Councilor, Marven Robinson, what they found on Sunday April 10, was not “extremely minor leakage.” Since BC Ferries stopped the daily monitoring, the band council has been paying out if its own pocket for someone to go out three hours every day to check for fuel collecting on the surface. On that Sunday he says they found a long rainbow sheen on the water that was four feet across.

“It ran right from where the ferry went down and wrapped all the way around into Fishermen’s Cove, and that’s the top end of Gill Island . . .This is one of the reasons why we need to keep doing that daily monitoring. [BC Ferries] has made many promises, they said ‘as long as the vessel is there and there’s fuel inside, we’ll keep doing the daily monitoring’,” says Robinson.

When the slick was reported to BC Ferries, the company asked the band to collect a sample or a photo so its origin could be verified, but the weather made it impossible to go out by boat and get one before it had dispersed. Robinson says the band is frustrated because BC Ferries is not taking their concerns seriously.

“It seems like whenever we see it, it’s not taken very seriously. And when we try to tell people that we’ve seen it they’re like ‘oh okay, it’s just coming from the ferry,’ or ‘oh, it’s just coming from a boat that passed by.’ It gets really frustrating,” says Robinson.

Robinson says the small community is reliant on shellfish for food, and they’re worried without the monitoring they won’t know if it will be safe to eat. BC Ferries says that while it may not be monitoring the surface any longer, it is continuing to monitor food sources in order to address those concerns.

Robinson says that BC Ferries is backtracking on promises it made to the people in the area and that the band may have to start pushing for BC Ferries to be forced to remove the wreck from the bottom of the ocean.