The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it could take several years before 13 surplus lighthouses on Prince Edward Island are handed over to community groups.

The delay is being blamed on environmental issues and land disputes.

The Seacow Head Lighthouse in Fernwood is part of that group. The community group trying to take it over says it was told five months ago the wooden structure has absorbed hazardous mercury.

DFO has not responded since then on what to do next.

Group co-chair Tom Sherry says it's DFO's responsibility to maintain the structure which is usually painted every five years.

Seacow Head lighthouse

According to DFO, the Seacow Head Lighthouse in Fernwood has absorbed hazardous mercury. (CBC)

“The lighthouse needs to be painted. It's a tourist, a major tourist attraction, we're not going to touch it until it may be turned over to us,” he said. “We feel it's the federal government’s responsibility to maintain it. We're waiting, I guess, right now for them to get back to us, as to their next step.”

According to DFO, nine other surplus lighthouses that do not have outstanding issues are expected to be handed over before June.

The original plan was to transfer 34 surplus lighthouses on P.E.I. Some of them are range lights.

So far, only the Brighton Beach Front Range has been handed over. Another lighthouse transfer was halted after the community group's plan was not considered viable.

No community groups put forward a proposal for the remaining 10 lighthouses.