Nfld. & Labrador

Latest leak from Manolis L. a reminder of risk, says citizens committee

A citizens committee in the Fogo Islands-Change Islands area says a shipwreck that continues to leak oil should be pumped out this year.
The Manolis L sank in 1985 near Change Islands in Notre Dame Bay. A small leak was detected last week. (Courtesy Maritime History Archive, Memorial University)

A citizens committee in the Fogo Island-Change Islands area says a wrecked container ship that continues to leak oil should be pumped out this year.

The latest leak from the Manolis L., which sank after running onto rocks 30 years ago, is very small, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Crews that just finished a spring check on the vessel called it "a droplet."

However, a citizens group that has been pushing to have the oil pumped out of the Manolis L. told CBC's Central Morning on Thursday that the discovery is a reminder of the risk.

"We're happy that it's a small leak," said Carolyn Parsons, a member of the Manolis L. Citizens Response Committee. "Although their tolerance of oil in the water is a little bigger than my own."

People in Notre Dame Bay have protested, demanding that oil be pumped from the Manolis L. before an environmental disaster. (Twitter)

Parsons said the rusting hull is deteriorating. "For us this is symbolic of the possibility of a bigger breach."

$6M to be spent this summer

The federal government is spending $6 million this summer on a technical assessment to determine what to do with the Manolis L.

"The technical assessment would normally be part and parcel of a full remediation," said Parsons. "We don't know that they have committed to removing the oil or what will happen after that or if anything will happen this year."

Given the narrow weather window in the region, the group is concerned that a technical assessment will delay removal of the oil until 2017, and another assessment may have to be done if something moves the hull before then.

"We'd really like to see them move forward this year, and get this done, and move towards a permanent solution," said Parsons.

She said her group has talked to salvage companies who say removing the oil would not be as complicated as some other work they do for the oil and gas industry in deeper water.

The site of the shipwreck Manolis L off Change Islands. (Shelley Reid)

In the meantime, Parsons said there is a new openness in Ottawa following the election of the Trudeau Liberals, but the resignation of Hunter Tootoo as minister of Fisheries and Oceans is a setback.

"We have to start all over familiarizing another minister with this file and getting them onside," she said. 

For now, Parsons said the citizens committee will keep up the pressure and public awareness, "trying to convince the government to do the right thing."

With files from Central Morning