Cleanup of rusting cruise ship halted due to ice
Some fear fuel, other contaminants will leak into Red River as ice in Lord Selkirk II melts
The Canadian Coast Guard's efforts to clean up an eyesore that has vexed people in Selkirk, Man., for nearly a quarter of a century were stalled on Friday by a huge block of ice.
The MS Lord Selkirk II was once a cruise ship and a tourist attraction.
But since 1991, it has sat in the Red River, rusting and rotting away after it fell into disuse.
A crew from British Columbia has been in Selkirk since Monday pumping water out of the decrepit vessel.
But that came to an abrupt halt when they came upon ice that had frozen inside the rusting hulk. And though the pumping is to continue when the ice melts, some are worried that will pose another problem.
Fuel and other contaminants are also inside the ship. There are concerns those substances could leak out as the ice melts.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said the city has brought in a toxicologist to assess the environmental risk.
"There's a laundry list of things, from A to Z, with the contaminants coming out off that ship," he said Friday. "And A is for arsenic. That's the big one."
Randy Farrell of the Coast Guard's Pacific Region and a specialist with its Environmental Response unit said he's optimistic there will be no leaks.
"We have pumped the levels down to below river levels and it seems to be holding at that," he said. "So anything that melts with the ice should stay within the vessel."
The Coast Guard said there is no immediate threat to aquatic life and crews have installed a containment boom as a precaution.
Pollution a concern
But Gord Cybulski, who runs catfish tours on the Red River, is worried.
"They got to clean it up," he said. "Pollution in the water is just no good. That's my livelihood, so we got to keep it going."
Johannson said he hopes the delay in the clean up prompts the federal and provincial governments to come up with the cash needed to get rid of the ship.
He said it's sad it's come to this for the Lord Selkirk II.
"It was fantastic. I wish it was still here in its glory days. But now the ship is sick and it has to go."