Kathryn Spirit: Political leaders call on federal government to remove abandoned ship

The mayor of Montreal is calling for a meeting with the federal government about the abandoned cargo ship rusting away in Lake St. Louis.

Quebec environment ministry says there are no major contaminants in rusting ship near Beauharnois

The Kathryn Spirit, a rusty cargo ship in Lake St. Louis, has been abandoned near the town of Beauharnois for over four years. (Julie Marceau)

The mayor of Montreal is calling for a meeting with the federal government about the abandoned cargo ship rusting away in Lake St. Louis.

The Kathryn Spirit, abandoned four years ago near the town of Beauharnois, is suspected of having toxic materials in its ballast that could leak at any moment.

In a written statement, mayor Denis Coderre said "pollution from rust residues and oil from the wreck could contaminate the drinking water reservoir that is Lake St. Louis."

On Tuesday, Daniel Messier, spokesman for the Quebec environment ministry, said there are no contaminants in "significant quantities" in the ship's hold.

The Canadian Coast Guard has a similar position.

"The majority of accessible pollutants were removed in 2013. In its current state, this vessel is not discharging any polluting substances," spokeswoman Carole Saindon said. 

If any toxic material does leak, the Coast Guard will "respond immediately in order to contain and remove the pollutants," she added.

This was little comfort for elected leaders who have been asking for this ship's removal for years.

"There could still be liquid contaminants in contact with materials in the ship," New Democratic MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach told CBC's As It Happens. "If the ship leans on its side, like it has in the past, it could cause dirty water to leak."

Quach said she sent several letters to federal environment and transportation ministers in the former Conservative government and received no response.

She is still waiting for an answer from the new Liberal government, she said.

Beauharnois Mayor Claude Haineault also said he's been asking provincial and federal government agencies to remove the Kathryn Spirit for years.

The Mexican company that owned the ship renounced it after going bankrupt. As a result, all maintenance operations to keep the boat upright have stopped.

Quach said the federal government can seize the boat if it poses a risk to the environment and public health.


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