Environmental concerns over oil leaking from a sunken cargo ship in Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland

2018 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCESD Report 4
Case study: Manolis L oil spill cleanup

Petition: 373

Issue(s): Human/environmental health, toxic substances, transport, water

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

Date Received: 12 February 2015

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition raises concerns about the environmental response of the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Environment Canada and federal measures planned to mitigate the damage and clean up oil leaking from the shipwreck of the Manolis L, which sank in Notre Dame Bay near Change Island, Newfoundland, in January 1985.

When it sank, the cargo carrier was left on the ocean floor with the bulk of its 462 tonnes of fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel oil contained in metal storage tanks. Over the 30 years since the sinking of the vessel, the storage tanks have deteriorated and since an extreme storm in March 2013, there have been multiple fuel leaks from the wreckage. The petition notes that the oil leak has affected seals and seabirds, the shoreline, and wharves. According to the petition, the Canadian Coast Guard has monitored the wreckage since 2013 and has, on several occasions, attempted to contain the leaks. The petition indicates that these remediation efforts have not been successful and that oil continues to be released into the sea. According to the petition, the potential for an environmental disaster is increased by the harsh and unpredictable weather during winter months in this ecologically sensitive area. The petition emphasizes that there is a significant concern that a large spill of this oil could potentially destroy the fisheries and tourism in the region.

The petition asks the federal government for details of the clean-up costs so far, along with any reports of remediation and mitigation measures done since 2013. The petition notes that the Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund can no longer be used to cover clean-up costs and requests an explanation for this decision. It also requests information on the current emergency response plans in the event of a large spill during months when access to the site is difficult due to ice conditions. Finally, information is requested from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard on any operations planned, including estimated costs and the time frame, to permanently remove the oil from the ship.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada