Nigel Greenwood, assistant ice navigator, looks out at the ice from the bridge while standing watch overnight aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it traverses the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on July 21, 2017. (David Goldman/The Canadian Press/AP)

Concerns grow about grey water in Canada’s Arctic: report shows it could double

Drainage from sinks, laundry machines, bath tubs and shower stalls is growing

A traditional hunter in the Northwest Territories says he used to welcome the cruise ships coming into the Beaufort Sea in Canada’s Arctic.

But Hans Lennie from Inuvik says that’s changing.

“Not as much now. Now that we’ve got all the facts,” said Lennie, who also sits on the Inuvialuit Game Council, which manages wildlife and wildlife habitat in the region.

Some of his concerns are highlighted in a new report about untreated grey water being dumped by ships passing through.

The study commissioned by World Wildlife Fund Canada said the amount of grey water — drainage from sinks, laundry machines, bath tubs, shower stalls or dishwashers — could double by 2035 if laws aren’t improved.

READ MORE: Hundreds of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

READ MORE: Arctic ice melt, increased shipping endangers whales: study

“It’s pretty alarming,” said Melissa Nacke of the wildlife conservation group. “These concentration areas are overlapping with important species habitat and important cultural areas.”

The number of ships travelling in northern waters is expected to increase as climate change melts sea ice. The study suggests tourism will be the biggest source of grey water dumping by 2035.

“If you think of shower or laundry water, it contains detergent and soaps and shampoos,” said Nacke. “It also has really high levels of nutrients … and can have things like oil and grease. It can have metals, food particles and, because of the laundry, it can also have microplastics.”

Nacke said those materials can contaminate shellfish and cause large algae blooms that create dead zones in the ocean.

The report noted that could have repercussions for food security in northern communities — a conclusion that only adds to Lennie’s concerns.

“It’s totally detrimental,” said Lennie. “These ships, their grey water is all their cleaning material. That’s pretty toxic stuff.

“It’s a nurturing grounds. All the marine life. All the invertebrates that the whales feed on. It involves the waterfowl too. It definitely has an impact on the food chain.”

Both the report and locals like Lennie say federal and international regulations are necessary.

“We need something. Right now we have nothing,” he said. “Anything we do is better than nothing.”

Lennie said the Inuvialuit Game Council has been meeting with the federal government.

READ MORE: B.C. skipper who circumnavigated North America publishes book on Canada’s Arctic

READ MORE: ‘We’re quite frustrated:’ Red tape threatens growing Arctic space industry

Officials with Transport Canada said they are reviewing the report.

“Canada regulates shipping within Canadian Arctic waters,” said an emailed statement from the department. ”The regulations address many aspects of Arctic shipping, including requirements for vessel construction and operation, training of crew members, the presence of ice navigators on board, fire safety and life-saving.”

But the statement acknowledged there are no provisions related to grey water.

Different rules are in place for southern Canadian waters. The regulations require passenger vessels built after 2013 and carrying more than 500 passengers to use an onboard marine sanitation device before releasing grey water.

The U.S. government and the state of Alaska have regulations related to grey water from ships.

“Part of that was because cruise ships spend a lot of time in Alaska,” said Ed White, cruise ship program manager with Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation. “Part of it was the size of the ships, too, which were much larger than the communities they were travelling to. That created a lot public concern.”

White said the major worry was linked to bacteria from food waste or laundry, but officials had also found toxic materials such as dry cleaning chemicals and mercury.

“We don’t see that anymore.”

That’s due to stricter regulations, he said, including inspections on ships and a move to stop using some toxic materials.

Nacke said high standards in Alaska make it more important for grey water discharge to be regulated in Canada’s northern waters.

“Cruise ships that go around Alaska … can literally use Canada as a dumping ground,” she said.

Lennie said he hopes there are some regulations sooner rather than later.

“This is a new travel destination,” he said. “(Tourists) want to see the untouched wilderness, but there’s a cost to it.”

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

More funding for Harrison tourism projects on the horizon

Village could see increased funding by 2020

Most cows saved during massive fire on Agassiz farm thanks to fast work of farmers, neighbours

Agassiz Fire Department responded to late night call Wednesday

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Chilliwack steps up to the plate and brings music and dance Provicials to town to prevent lag

Sponsors are needed to help knock the 2019 Provincials out of the park

Massive fire destroys Agassiz dairy barn

Reports say at least one cow died in the blaze

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

Porsche impounded for going 138 km/hr in 90 zone during charity rally

West Vancouver Police said wet roads and heavy rain made it extra dangerous

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Phase 2 of $1.35B Royal Columbian upgrades won’t be a public-private partnership

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says it will be a design-build

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Most Read