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Residents upset over Vancouver Island shipbreaking operation

Click to play video: 'Battle over ‘shipbreaking’ on Vancouver Island'
Battle over ‘shipbreaking’ on Vancouver Island
People living in Union Bay on Vancouver Island are angry over a business that dismantles derelict ships, saying they're worried about its effect on their local environment. Paul Johnson reports – Mar 1, 2024

Some residents of the Comox Valley are raising concerns about a business that dismantles derelict vessels.

While the company says it is doing nothing wrong, many locals say they’re worried about the operation’s effects on their coastal environment.

The shipbreaking business occupies the site of a former log-sorting operation in Union Bay, a few kilometres south of Courtenay.

“It was something that happened unbeknownst to us,” said Marilynne Manning with the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound, a group upset about the possible effects of toxic materials on the ships being deconstructed.

“They’re all full of those hazardous materials: lead, mercury, cadmium, asbestos.”

Click to play video: 'Abandoned boat removal begins along Alouette River'
Abandoned boat removal begins along Alouette River

The operation is run by an American-controlled company called Deep Water Recovery.

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The site is currently occupied by several barges and two derelict ships, one in a partial state of disassembly. On a Thursday visit to the site, Global News was not able to see any visible methods of containment.

The global shipbreaking industry is concentrated overseas in countries including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Residents in the Union Bay area say they recognize the process is necessary, but believe their seashore is the wrong place to be doing do it.

“Everybody thinks it’s appalling that an activity like that would happen in this specific place,” Comox Valley Regional District director Daniel Arbour told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Derelict vessels to be removed from Nicomekl River'
Derelict vessels to be removed from Nicomekl River

The district has gone to court in an effort to have the operation shut down.

As Global News was filming an interview with Arbour, our crew was told it was trespassing and asked to leave by Deep Water Recovery co-owner Mark Jurisich.

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Jurisich said that there is asbestos in the ships, it is contained, and that the operation is not polluting.

He blamed the current problems on Arbour, whom he alleged won’t take his calls.

“The reason we have all this animosity with this guy is because when all the problems started we tried to contact him,” he said.

But the ill will isn’t just between neighbours and the business.

Residents told Global news they feel abandoned by both the provincial and federal governments, neither of which have been able to prevent an allegedly hazardous industry from showing up in a place they don’t feel it belongs.

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