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Coast Guard identifies oil spill south of Prince Rupert

Oil leak from 76-year-old shipwreck
Wreckage from the Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski shipwreck in the Grenville Channel which is slowly leaking oil. (Photo: Canadian Coast Guard facebook)

Oil is leaking again from the sunken United States Army Transport (USAT) Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski vessel in Grenville Channel, about 100 kilometres south of Prince Rupert, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) stated on Dec. 1.

Guardians noticed a “small amount” of oil on the water near the wreck site this September and October, the coast guard stated. They completed an assessment of the site and found three leaks releasing slow but consistent drops of oil into the marine environment.

The CCG is working with Gitga’at and Gitxaala First Nations who have created an Emergency Coordination Centre with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) along side the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to address the spill, a social media post stated.

The wreck is in a difficult location on the edge of a rocky shelf with challenging currents, tides and weather patterns. The ship itself is also badly deteriorating in some areas. These factors create a safety risk to the coast guard that they must consider in their plans to respond to the incident, a spokesperson wrote.

“While the current amount of marine pollution upwelling from the shipwreck is minimal, it is possible the amount could increase. The Canadian Coast Guard is taking action now to assess and contain the immediate threats posed by the wreck to prevent long-term damage to the environment.”

The Zalinski ran aground and sunk in Grenville Channel in 1946 while travelling from Seattle to Alaska. The vessel lies upside down in 27 metres of water and has had multiple small oil leaks.

In 2013 the CCG led an operation with Gitga’at First Nation to remove 40,000 litres of heavy oil and 319,000 litres of oily water, a spokesperson for the coast guard stated. However, during this removal mission, they found a number of fuel tanks had collapsed and therefore, they could not pump oil out at the time.

“Since 2013, the Canadian Coast Guard has been working in partnership with the Gitga’at and Gitxaala First Nations, keeping a close eye on the wreck and area.”

The leak this fall was just the latest in a series of spills. In 2015, they removed 3,300 litres of oil and three years later, in 2018, they removed 300 litres of oil.

READ MORE: Mission ready in Prince Rupert, 8 Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary saving lives at sea

READ MORE: Coast Guard concerned about pollution after boat sinks near Haida Gwaii

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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The Canadian Coast Guard responded to an oil leakage in Grenville Channel during the fall of 2022. (Photo: Canadian Coast Guard facebook)