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EDITORIAL: Time for a permanent fix for Shoal Point


The results of a consultant’s report on oil seepage at Shoal Point on the Port au Port Peninsula finally came out Tuesday.

It contained no surprises: the leakage was coming from an abandoned oil well at the location, flowing at a rate of about one litre an hour, according to the consultant’s preliminary findings.

Doesn’t sound like much? Considering this has likely been happening since 2013 — when cabin owners from Ontario first reported it — it can add up to a lot.

Large oil slicks on the top of the water have been visible in the area and, while the tides drag a lot of it away, it’s likely causing significant damage to the marine environment.

Scallop harvesters in that area of Port au Port Bay had trouble getting anything other than clappers — basically empty shells — in recent years.

Environment Minister Dan Crummell says the next phase of work will now begin, involving an excavation to isolate the specific source of the leak in order to contain it.

Port au Port Fishery Committee member Bob Diamond questions how long this all will take, and whether it’s the correct response. A second option suggested by the consultants, which involves enclosing the area with a containment berm, could be a more permanent solution.

If you consider remediation for an 200-litre oil leak on a residential property, houses are moved, the contaminated soil dragged away, then a new basement is poured and the house is returned to its foundation.  

So this is serious business, given the amount that’s leaked into Port au Port Bay. Twenty-four liters per day for more than 700 days equals a big pile of petroleum afloat on the top of the water and washing onshore.

Diamond raises a good point that oil leaks in other jurisdictions in this province and across the country have been pounced on by the Canadian Coast Guard, but this one is ongoing. If the various regulatory bodies can’t agree on what’s to be done about leakage from this abandoned well, he asks, what will happen if there is a major oil spill in the future or if hydraulic fracturing is permitted?

It’s time to fix the Shoal Point problem and fix it correctly before too much permanent damage occurs in that area.

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