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Sinking fate of HMCS Annapolis destroyer generates environmental concern

The HMCS Annapolis sits in Long Bay off of Gambier Island near Vancouver July 23, 2011 as the ship is turned into a dive wreck.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A battle has raged over its fate for years, but the HMCS Annapolis, a decommissioned Canadian navy destroyer, is about to be scuttled.

"The sinking is imminent," Doug Bencze, treasurer of the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, said Sunday.

Mr. Bencze wouldn't say exactly what day the aging, 113-metre vessel would be sent to the bottom of Halkett Bay, on Gambier Island, just 20 kilometres north of Vancouver, but he said it would happen soon.

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However, Howard Robins, president of the society, said "it's premature" to suggest the sinking will take place imminently. He said a sink date hasn't been set because "we're still working on our ship," and because a final inspection has yet to be done.

The sinking of the Annapolis has been opposed for years by the Save Halkett Bay Campaign, which is made up mostly of local residents. One of that group's members, Andrew Strang, fired a last salvo on the weekend, hoping to keep the ship afloat, so it could be sent to a scrap yard, instead of to the sea floor.

"It looks for sure like they plan to sink it this week," he said. "They put out sinking buoys in the last couple of days, marking the spot where it will go down."

Mr. Strang said because of environmental concerns, he is appealing to the B.C. government for a last-minute intervention.

Government officials couldn't be reached Sunday, but have long voiced support for the project, saying the sinking could go ahead once all regulatory requirements had been met.

But Mr. Strang said he thinks environmental inspections have been inadequate.

"We haven't seen anything from the province that shows us the ship has been cleaned. The people in Howe Sound are not confident it is clean," he said, expressing concerns that polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury and other contaminants might be released from the sunken hulk.

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"It behooves this government to have a second look at the Annapolis," he said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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