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Irrepressible Howe Sound

An enigmatic fjord swirling with the after-effects of industrial activity and shining with remarkable comebacks of nature

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When I glance up at the ragged cliffs, I remark that it must have been quite a climb and he laughs.

"I am a bit of a cop," he says, "an environmental cop and Howe Sound is my beat."

So Buchanan perched on top of the cliffs and took photos, and discovered what he believes was an industrial operation going on, involving the burning of insulation off copper wires.

"It's an extremely toxic process. It has no business being done anywhere, let alone out there in the middle of Howe Sound," he said.

Buchanan informed Environment Canada and provincial agencies of his concerns and discovered what he calls "a jurisdictional nightmare."

"I've been told, the way the law of the sea is that if you have a vessel you can go anywhere in the world, tie up anywhere and do what you want ... it's a legal black hole that no one wants to go near."

He points out the agencies did respond and visit the site but the operation continued.

"What is really upsetting to me is how we dispose of our old vessels here, on the coast of B.C.," he says. "Steel is the number two polluter in the world and whenever there is an opportunity to recycle steel, it should be taken. It is the environmentally smart thing to do. You would think that BC Ferries would take some responsibility for an exit strategy for their vessels, but that doesn't seem to be the case. And we end up having their old vessels hanging around Howe Sound and they're sinking."

Deborah Marshall, director of media relations for BC Ferries said in a phone interview that the Queen of Saanich was sold in the fiscal year of 2009/2010 and that the vessel was in compliance with Transport Canada standards at the time.

When questioned about the vessel being dumped behind Anvil Island, she replied: "We have seen media coverage about it, but once we've sold the vessel, it's no longer our concern."

Meanwhile, a breaking news story emerged as I was researching this article.

On July 18, the Future of Howe Sound Society released a report stating that the Queen of Saanich would be patched and sent on its way to the Mexican ship breakers who bought her recently.

Apparently after recent coverage on CTV News it became enough of an embarrassment that local and regional authorities stepped up to deal with the situation, stated the report. Peter Grainger of CTV News reported that Pacific Boat Brokers in Parksville had negotiated a deal to sell the remaining ship to professional ship breakers who will tow the vessel down south to be broken up — The Queen of Saanich was towed from the site September 8.

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