Plans underway to lift partially sunken barge from Picton Bay

The Canadian Coast Guard says the risk of more leaks from a partially sunken barge in Prince Edward County in southeastern Ontario is low, and the plan is to lift it out of Picton Bay tonight or Thursday morning.

The drinking water system in Prince Edward County in southeastern Ontario is up and running again after being shut down temporarily Tuesday when about 30 litres of an undetermined substance leaked from the barge and floated close to a water intake pipe.

Prince Edward County's mayor declared a water emergency Tuesday because of contaminants leaking from the barge, and asked people on the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system to limit usage. 

A news release Tuesday night said those contaminants led to the temporary shutdown of the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water plant.

On Wednesday, the county said the plant "has resumed operations to refill system storage and is being monitored closely."

Continue to conserve, municipality urges

"Water is still safe to drink for those users connected to the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system. No other water systems are affected."

People in Picton and Bloomfield are being asked to limit their water use to essential needs to ensure that sufficient reserves are in place in case the plant needs to be shut down again.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, county officials said there's a "very faint possibility" the area could run short on water and neighbouring municipalities are ready to help if that happens.

They added the water emergency will be lifted when the barge is removed and there's no sheen left on the surface of the bay.

The barge sank Friday in the bay, which is about 60 kilometres southwest of Kingston. Authorities believe the partially submerged barge contains about 1,200 litres of diesel fuel and 100 litres of hydraulic fluid.

Municipal officials had earlier said nothing leaked from the barge and there was no immediate danger to the water supply.

The municipality is asking residents to check its website for updates.

Low risk of more leaks

The coast guard is on the scene and said in a statement the risk of further pollution is low.

"The remaining diesel and oil on the barge is in double-walled, self-contained tanks and the integrity of the hull is not compromised," the statement said.

"The pollutant released was residual oil and no further release has occurred since Friday."

The coast guard said the plan is to lift the barge later Wednesday or early Thursday. It said it has 1,200 metres of floating barrier at the scene to contain any potential leakage 

County officials said at the news conference the salvage operation could end as early as Thursday night.

They said they still didn't know what the sheen on the water is or why the barge sank.