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Partially submerged barge in Picton Bay – drinking water being tested


Photo by Dave Tugwood, Dave Tugwood Photography


The County continues to monitor its drinking water supply hour-by-hour as the municipality awaits news on the timing of the removal of a partially submerged barge in Picton Bay.

Mayor Robert Quaiff admits he hasn’t had much sleep this weekend as the County was notified Friday of the submerged barge at the Picton Terminals site. He was told by the Coast Guard the weaker portions of the barge were worn down by the ice on the bay, acting like sandpaper, causing a two-foot square hole. (UPDATE: There is no evidence of a hole in the barge (of any size), and there is no determination yet for what caused the bow of the barge to become submerged).

“I’m relieved right now that there doesn’t appear to be a threat to our drinking water, but we are monitoring closely hour-by-hour and we are getting regular updates,” he said.

He couldn’t say how close exactly it is to the municipality’s water intake pipe but said “the sheen was coming dangerously close and we let Coast Guard Canada know it may be in violation and that’s when action was taken to deploy another boom around the contaminant.”

He said the sheen is visible on the surface of the water from about 30 litres of fuel he understands could be a combination of gas and diesel with some emulsives.

The Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC), is in charge of deploying booms around the contaminant and cleaning it up while the Canadian Coast Guard also remains on the scene to supervise. Quaiff was told a large crane is on its way for the removal of the barge which could begin as early as late Sunday afternoon, or over Monday and Tuesday, depending on how big the job is.

Following a visit to the site Sunday morning, Quaiff said the boom is doing its job and though the sheen is small, he said the County has taken precautionary measures.

“We have extra staff on at the water plant and we are testing the water on an hour by hour basis,” said Quaiff. “If there’s anything that appears suspicious we are prepared to shut down the water intake and depend on our reservoir for a few days.”

Quaiff was told the barge, now submerged by two-thirds, was to be used for trucks to drive off to get loaded at Picton Terminals, and drive back on. He noted it is a different barge than the one carrying the trucks.

“There has been confusion about the two and a lot of drama and emotions involved,” he said. “But the situation has been monitored from the get-go and we will continue to get regular updates.”

* * *

SATURDAY, March 25 –  A barge partially submerged in the Picton Bay is being recovered and closely monitored for potential environmental impact.

The County was notified Friday of the barge, near the Picton Terminals site. It is now boomed off with pollution control equipment.

It is believed a barge carrying tandem trucks to be filled at Picton Terminals with gravel and aggregate was to be reloaded onto the barge and sent to Amherst Island.

Mayor Robert Quaiff was told by the Coast Guard the weaker portions of the barge were worn down by the ice on the bay, acting like sandpaper, causing a two-foot square hole.

He confirms some fuel leaked from the top of the barge. Additional containment booms are being placed.

Officials are working today to discuss how to remove the barge using a large crane.

Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response personnel will remain on-site to monitor for pollution, and municipal staff have remained in contact with on-site personnel to ensure a response is prepared if required.

The County stated it has taken precautions to protect the Picton Bloomfield drinking water system and to ensure sufficient drinkable water has been collected in municipal reservoirs should any pollution be detected.

The barge was from McKeil Marine, a 60-year-old Canadian company based in Burlington. Its services include moving bulk and general cargo throughout the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and East Coast.

McKeil Marine, in January, announced it entered into a long-time agreement with Essroc Canada, a part of Lehigh Hanson, Inc., to provide a cement vessel for the transportation of various cement projects from Picton to their terminals in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. McKeil said it would acquire and operate Essroc’s current vessel, the Stephen B. Roman to provide the cement transportation services during 2017.


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  1. Bill McEndree says:

    Sorry Doris, but if you listen to any radio station from Kingston, Napanee, Belleville or Picton you would have heard about this. Having country trucks going around distributing flyers is an unnecessary expense that the tax payers don’t need.

    If we are going to blame anyone, lets go back to the genius who designed the plant and the placement of the intake valve next to the terminals. Whether it was in use at the time or not is irrelevant, as there would always be the possibility that some day it would be in use. Seems to me I read an article or letter in the Gazette several months ago stating the possibility of a problem such as this occurring. Well here we are and I guess another large increase in our water bills will be forthcoming to correct the problem.

  2. Doris Lane says:

    Like some others I found out about this water problem from CBS news.

    Would it have been too much to ask the county to send their numerous county trucks around to Picton residents with a flyer informing the patrons of this very expensive water that there was a problem. Finding out about nearly a week later is not acceptable
    Not everyone listens to County News etc
    Like some others I think the council should not have OKed this terminal with large ocean type boats stirring up the water so close to the filtration plant
    I hope we get a discount on our huge water bill next month.

  3. wevil says:

    Gary many more people than you think drink the water bottled water also comes from there

  4. Gary says:

    I suspect that few persons drink water from the Municipal water system. It is primarily toilet and laundry use. Even laundry could be suspect for contaminants.

  5. Fred says:

    This I agree with you with. The former Proctor site draining into the Bay is serious as well. Personally I think the harbour is a cess pool full of all kinds of contaminants and I have never trusted the Municipal drinking water system. Years and years of dumping into this harbour from the 1800’s and at least 60 years into the 1900’s. One can only wonder about the high cancer rate.

  6. wevil says:

    i watched the video of Dave McKay interesting I have to wonder why he has not jumped on the wagon concerning the buried contaminants at Hamilton Beach property they are way more toxic than the fuel in the bay. these contaminants have leached into the ditch that leads to a culvert under the road beside the beer store and on into the bay. the chemicals from the plating machine that used to be operated by procter silex very toxic

  7. hockeynan says:

    Why would Picton terminal be responsible.If my boat has an oil leak,at a marina the marina isn’t responsible. Me and my insurance company is.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    Picton Terminal may not own the barge, but they are responsible for it being there and they are responsible for the huge amount of salt run-off into “OUR” lake. The Terminal is operating under very questionable circumstances – the sooner they shut down the better.

  9. wevil says:

    Susan why are you still blaming Picton Terminals they are not the owners of the barge you said it though you do not want them doing business in this county

  10. Susan says:

    Wonder who determined it was 30 litres? Hopefully not the company with over a dozen non compliance environmental orders. 1 litre to me is too much and remember there has been nothing but infractions leading up to this. Count me in as one who absolutely does not want to see this business develop. To me it opportunistic, bending laws and creating a huge environmental risk.

  11. hockeynan says:

    Yes if you stir the hell out of it.just pouring hydraulic oil in water it won’t mix.I don’t know how a 5 American gallon pail can have 30 liters in it. You should go to the town marina or any other marina and see how much gas is pumped in the water from the vents of boats.Admit it ,you just don’t want Mr. DORNACAMP to get ahead.I am sure most of you had or have businesses and wouldn’t want the harassment that you are giving him

  12. painterman says:

    @hockeynan….can you say emulsion…oil and water definitely can mix.

  13. hockeynan says:

    Pamela.I believe oil is lighter than water so it will float.

  14. Susan says:

    Key word Wevil, “ironic”.

    Checkout the story of Picton Councilor bringing an about face to the Committee of the Whole.

  15. wevil says:

    you are not making sense Susan it is no different than LCBO supplying booze to people that can drink and drive just business

  16. Susan says:

    Nothing can stand in the way of Industrial Wind Turbines. Kinda ironic that a municipality that has declared themselves “an unwilling host to turbines” is full heartedly supporting a terminal that is providing industrial products to Amherst Island for a huge wind farm. There will be more serious issues presented as this Terminal swings into full gear of steady traffic into the harbour.

  17. Dennis Fox says:

    Hockeyman – thanks for the info. I am not sure if a company like McKeil Marine owns these vessels or is just the middle man between the owners and the companies needing their services. Either way, I hope whoever does own this barge is held responsible. I suppose we should also be asking – who is responsible for the safety checks on these vessels? This barge was obviously un-seaworthy.

  18. Pamela Stagg says:

    A sheen on the surface might indicate more significant problems underwater. It would be interesting to know exactly what type of fuel oil spilled and whether it stays on the surface or could sink down to the level of the water intake pipe, where it might be undetected until it enters the water treatment plant.

  19. Adam Ant says:

    This is just a guess. The Doornekamps are shipping the waste rock from the terminal to this wind mill project. From pictures on the internet the trucks in question on the barge look like Hendrick Quarry trucks. a quarry the Doornekamps own near Wilton. They probably have the contract to supply gravel to this project. Crushing equipment has been seen going to the terminal lately. This brings to question, legally is the terminal now a quarry if the Doornekamps are crushing and selling rock I guess it is. Next question do you not need a license to and zoning to run a quarry?

  20. hockeynan says:

    Dennis,if you read the article you would see who owns the barge. Also Fred I don’t think any tankers are coming to our harbour,they are all dry bulk carriers. Also I don’t think our council can stop them because we don’t own the water. If people could stop ships no many would be running.

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    I don’t believe the Terminal is to blame for the barge being a junk heap. The owner of the barge should be held accountable for allowing an unsafe vessel to be used. Does anyone know who the owner is? The Terminal is to blame for being in operation, and for accepting this vessel to use their dock. When the residents of the area presented legitimate concerns to council and to the MOE, while our council supports it, the MOE clearly found the Terminal to be in violation on a large number of regulations. This latest accident is just another sign of NO ONE doing their job properly and not taking the environment nor public safety into proper consideration. I highly suspect that a lot more than 30L. of gas spilled into the lake – but will we ever know? According to the Quinte News site this incident took place very close to the town’s intake pipe. A large number of people are to blame for this – but it will only be the local people who will be most impacted, while the money makers continue to make money – all with the approval of our various levels of government. The system really is broken.

  22. Fred says:

    Huge tankers coming into the harbour with God knows what on board. And the harbour will be a ballast dumping ground. I don’t know why Council jumped right on board from the get go without sound information and discussions.

  23. wevil says:

    it is so interesting to see most of you are blaming Picton Terminals for this barge sinking.strange as it may seem Picton Terminals does not even own the barge.i guess this is just another attempt too shut the business down.the gravel that is going to be sent out is more than likely coming from the Miller quarry on county rd.49 it is not the responsibility of Picton Terminals to insure that any vessel or vehicle that goes to their port to get material is safe for the road or on the water.this barge does not even have its own motor. i guess it is normal for some of you to lay blame before you know who is guilty of anything. after all you do not believe innocent until proven guilty

  24. John jinglehimier says:

    Still has absolute no comparison to the amount of pollution cormorants crap into our lakes each year.

  25. Chris Keen says:

    If the Doornekamps wanted widespread community support for their Picton Terminals operation they should probably not have agreed to allow its use, allegedly by Algonquin Power, to move materials for the construction of IWTs which so many people in the County and on Amherst Island oppose.

    I trust the County will seek repayment from those responsible for this debacle for every penny this costs us in staff time, monitoring etc…

    The mayor will no doubt be on the phone to the MOECC first thing Monday demanding to know why these materials are being moved when no Marine Logistics Plan has apparently been filed. The next step, I suggest, is for the County to obtain an injunction to stop Picton Terminals from loading any more materials until this plan is approved by the MOECC.

    I am sure we will all be watching with great interest how both levels of government act going forward as they fulfill their responsibility to serve and protect us – as opposed to commercial interests that may or may not have our best interests at heart.

  26. Dennis Fox says:

    To Deb Barrett – thanks for this info. It doesn’t surprise me that our municipality doesn’t know about what is coming into this terminal – they are too busy accepting anything that looks like a business opportunity and cow-towing to upper levels of government in the hope of gaining more brownie points for grants. If our council had raised concerns and demanded at least basic safety precautions – (like requesting an environmental study be done PRIOR to the terminal starting up), then there could have been a line of formal communications established – instead of hearing about it after it happens. I know it is easy to criticize, but the residents around the harbour have expressed concerns for some time – only to be ignored. This situation could very well turn into a “perfect storm” scenario – A terminal operating under questionable zoning, huge tankers stirring up pollutants, unknown vessels now appearing and the town’s intake pipe located a short distance away from this action. It makes one wonder why we have any government at all- they sure aren’t protecting the public.

  27. Deb Barrett says:

    The Association to Protect Amherst Island has made repeated requests to Algonquin Power to produce a comprehensive Marine Safety and Logistics Plan and to carefully consider the high risks to public safety and the environment of the ill-conceived plan to construct wind turbines on Amherst Island. Mohsen Keyvani of MOECC in a letter to Algoqnuin Power on November 3, 2016 said “as committed to through the REA process, a Marine Logistics Plan addressing barge, ferry, and other marine traffic must be prepared prior to construction of the project”.

    This has NOT been done. Indeed the incident in Picton was the first time Mayor Quaif knew that materials would be transported from Picton Terminals.

    Enough Premier Wynne! Amherst Island is the wrong place, the very wrong place for wind turbines.

  28. Susan says:

    The Belleville Intelligencer says that at least 30 litres of fuel has spilled.

  29. Emily says:

    Apparently this barge is transporting tandem trucks with gravel to Amherst Island to construct industrial wind turbines. One environment folly to another!

  30. Vincent says:

    According to this video, some kind of slick appeared on the surface of the bay.

  31. Chuck says:

    Wow!! What many of us feared from the start. Is the Mercury on the bottom of the Bay being disturbed? We need immediate water testing. This is going to be an ongoing issue. Council needs to report what is happening to residents Pronto. We are already paying $200 a month for brown water that you would never considered drinking.

  32. Dennis Fox says:

    A barge can carry anything and is very capable of being a source of pollution. What should be a concern is the location of the town’s intake pipe. The relocation of this pipe should be Council’s top priority. They support the Terminal – shouldn’t they also be prepared to do what is needed to ensure clean drinking water? Does anyone know if a water analysis has been done regularly since the Terminal operation started? If the stories we have read in our press are accurate, aren’t these big tankers stirring up contaminants? Also, is there any monitoring of what vessels are coming into our harbour and in what condition they are in?

  33. hockeynan says:

    A barge with no engine how can it pollute. I guess you guy’s have something to talk about now

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