Nova Scotia

SS Arrow oil recovery mission off Nova Scotia stalled by bad weather

The Canadian Coast Guard says high winds in Chedabucto Bay have led it to cancel recovery operations today on SS Arrow, the oil tanker that sunk 45 years ago off the coast of Nova Scotia and recently started leaking.

6,900 litres now removed from SS Arrow, off coast of Arichat

Each day, weather determines if the environmental response vessels, dive boat and barge carrying a vacuum truck are dispatched to clean up oil leaking from the SS Arrow. (CBC)

The Canadian Coast Guard says high winds in Chedabucto Bay have led it to cancel recovery operations today on SS Arrow, the oil tanker that sunk 45 years ago off the coast of Nova Scotia and recently started leaking.

"Nobody is on the ocean today," David Jennings, a spokesperson for the coast guard, said Thursday.

Jennings says the coast guard recovery team took 2,500 litres of the heavy bunker oil from the Arrow on Wednesday, when weather conditions were ideal. That brings the total to 6,900 litres recovered since operations began in August.

The Canadian Coast Guard has been pumping thick viscous oil from the shattered wreck of the SS Arrow, lying on the bottom of the bay off the coast of Arichat.

Each day, weather determines if the environmental response vessels, dive boat and barge carrying a vacuum truck are dispatched to the site.

Oil spotted in August

Kyle Jarvis, with the Canadian Coast Guard, said earlier this week that it's not known how long the cleanup will take or what it will cost.

"Cost won't be known until the end of the operation," he said. 

Fisherman Louis Boudreau is frustrated there is still oil coming from the Arrow. (CBC News)

In Arichat, fisherman Louis Boudreau is frustrated there is oil coming from the SS Arrow.

Most of the 108,000 barrels of oil the tanker was carrying to a pulp and paper plant in Port Hawkesbury spilled into the ocean back in 1970. The oil was spotted again in August on the ocean surface and washing ashore on Isle Madame.

Last week, the Canadian Coast Guard said it believes 20,000 litres remain on board.

"It should have been all done at once and not wait 45 years after," said Boudreau. "It's kind of late." 

Worldwide phenomenon 

Marine historian Roger Marsters of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax says what is happening off Arichat is part of a worldwide phenomenon. He says many oil tankers have sunk in coastal waters and deep seas with large oil cargos and other toxic materials still on board.

"They really are going to continue to represent a problem for many, many years because as the integrity of the hulls of these vessels is breached, those cargos are still there and ready to be dispersed into the broader environment," Marsters said. 

The Canadian Coast Guard recovery team took 2,500 litres of the heavy bunker oil from the Arrow on Wednesday, when weather conditions were ideal. That brings the total to 6,900 litres recovered since operations began in August. (CBC)

Back in Arichat, where the recovery operation is based, there is hope this latest breach poses a far smaller threat than in 1970 when a large volume of oil washed up on the southern shores of Isle Madame.

"This time around we're being assured it won't have the same impact as it had the last time," said Robert Fougere, a resident of Arichat.

"There is much less oil to deal with and hopefully everybody is being truthful and it'll be done in short order."

 Fougere says everyone is hoping for fair weather so the clean up can continue.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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