A ferry passenger recently told Lakes District News that while riding on the Francois Lake ferry service she noticed a ferry employee washing his car on the ferry and flushing the soapy dirty water into the lake.
She said the employee then proceeded to flush part of the ferry deck off into the lake. The passenger was concerned that the runoff could contain dirt, oil and grease, and be contaminating the lake.
The Francois Lake ferry service is operated by WaterBridge Equipment Inc. Mark Neave, Marine Manager at WaterBridge Equipment, told Lakes District News that ferry crew have been letting runoff from the ferry’s deck go into the lake for decades.
“We’ve been doing it every day probably five times a day for the last 60 years,” he said.
However, Neave said “it’s only ordinary road dust that gets washed into the lake.”
“As I mentioned in our conversation, we currently clean all oil products up and wash only dirt and road dust into the lake,” he said.
Paul Mudroch, Senior Environmental Advisor for Transport Canada, explained that the ferry should not be discharging any pollutants into the marine environment.
“Under the vessel pollution and dangerous chemicals regulations, the washings should be collected by the vessel and passed through an oil water separator, or be retained on board until the vessel reaches a port,” said Mudroch.
Jillian Glover, Spokesperson for Transport Canada, said commercial vessels are inspected annually to ensure compliance of guidelines.
“The last inspection of the MV Francois Forester was conducted in April 2015,” said Glover. “No deficiencies were found.”
After speaking to Lakes District News, Transport Canada contacted WaterBridge Equipment and ordered the company to follow proper cleaning procedures and reinforce training with the crew.
The Canada Shipping Act 2001 gives Transport Canada jurisdiction over all vessels, including ferries and high speed passenger vessels, operated in Canada. The act is supported by a number of regulations in support of a safe, secure and environmentally responsible marine transportation system.
Possible modifications to Southside dock
The ministry of transportation and infrastructure is exploring possible modifications to the existing south side dock at the Francois Lake ferry service.
According to Sonia Lowe, Public Affairs Officer for the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, said the ministry is in the “very early stages” of looking at this project.
“There are no firm plans, cost estimates or timelines at present,” she said. “If the ministry proceeds, we don’t expect the ferry service to be affected during modifications.”
Still no plans for Omineca Princess
The Omineca Princess ferry, currently docked at Francois Lake, has been out of service since 2004. According to the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, there are still no plans to move the vessel.
The ministry is now considering the future of the vessel. However, there are no plans for the vessel at this point in time, and for the foreseeable future, the vessel will remain moored at its current location.
According to Sonia Lowe, Public Affairs Officer for the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, it is safe for the Omineca Princess to remain moored in Francois Lake.
“The vessel is monitored regularly and there are no negative impacts on the environment,” she said.
Owned by the province of B.C., the vessel and berth are under custody of the ferry operator, Waterbridge Equipment Inc.