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Cornwall, Ontario (July 15, 2010) – The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) reports that vessel traffic on the South Shore Canal will fully resume at approximately 4:00 p.m. today. The canal, closed since Monday at 7:30 p.m. due to a fuel spill, has been cleared to resume operation after a successful effort to cleanup the navigation channel.

At the time navigation resumes, a total of 17 vessels will be queued to transit the canal.  The backlog of vessels should be cleared during the day on Friday.  A series of booms continue to isolate the banks of the canal from the navigation channel which, combined with a reduced rate of speed imposed temporarily on all traffic, ensures that efforts to remediate the banks continue to advance smoothly.

On Monday at approximately 7:30 p.m. the Canada Steamship Lines bulker Richelieu lost engine power.  Efforts to bring the vessel to a halt resulted in a fuel tank being punctured, triggering the release of a quantity of fuel into the canal.  Prompt action by the vessel’s crew in the initial deployment of booms and by Seaway operating staff in sealing the lock at Cote Ste. Catharine, thus halting the current within the canal, ensured that the spill remained in the immediate vicinity of the vessel.   Federal agencies and the clean up contractor, ECRC, attended the scene and initiated a rapid remedial action plan.

Environmental impact from the spill has been limited.  Waterborne oil has been removed through pumping and vacuuming operations; oil washed to the banks has for the most part not been absorbed, since the banks of the canal consist of man-made rock termed “rip-rap”, and remains accessible for cleanup.  A small number of birds were soiled, and were attended to by specialists.  Efforts are underway to remediate and restore the local environment.

“We are satisfied with the actions carried out by our emergency response team” said SLSMC President and CEO Richard Corfe.  “We regularly engage in emergency response exercises with stakeholder agencies, and the effective response to this incident provides tangible proof that collectively, we were up to the challenge.  We commend the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, Transport Canada and all of the other federal, provincial and civil authorities engaged at the scene for their efforts.”

For more information on the St. Lawrence Seaway, please consult the website.