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Quinte chapter concerned by water emergency after barge sinks in Picton Bay

The Council of Canadians Quinte chapter is concerned by the impact of a sunken barge on Picton’s drinking water.

Picton, an unincorporated community in Prince Edward County, is located about 200 kilometres east of Toronto.

Quinte News now reports, “Prince Edward County has declared a state of emergency after contaminates from a partially submerged barge at Picton Terminals seeped into the town’s water intake supply system Tuesday [March 28]. Mayor Robert Quaiff declared the water emergency Tuesday night stating at 4:30 p.m. the contaminates entered the Picton intake protection Zone 1.”

County Live reports it slightly differently: “Quaiff has declared a water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the Picton-Bloomfield water intake. At approximately 4:30 pm today, the contaminants entered the Picton Intake Protection Zone 1. Due to the proximity of the contaminants, and anticipated unfavourable wind directions overnight, the County has decided to halt water processing at the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water plant until such time as the safety of the water can be confirmed.”

The 27-metre long industrial barge, which began sinking on the evening of March 23 and is now two-thirds underwater, contains about 1,200 litres of diesel fuel and 100 litres of hydraulic fluid. Those fuel tanks are reportedly intact, but two 19-litre buckets of fuel on the deck of the barge fell into the water during the incident.

The chapter has been working with Save Picton Bay, a group concerned about the pollution resulting from Picton Terminals, a deep marine dockage on Picton Bay (a branch of the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario) that loads and unloads road salt, aggregates, farming products, steel, biomass and wine barrels.

Save Picton Bay notes, “This is exactly the kind of accident we have warned County Council would happen… We believe that if the proper zoning regulations were in place; if the County were enforcing their by-laws and if Picton Terminals were operating their port so that it did not endanger the surrounding environment and Picton Bay, these spills and accidents … would not be happening.”

This 3-minute video highlights those concerns, including 2-3 tons of salt leaching into the bay from the terminal on a rainy day.

For updates on this situation, please see the Save Picton Bay Facebook page.