Sailors aboard the Amundsen Research Vessel have been consuming lead contaminated drinking water in recent weeks. The union is now asking the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) to take action to prevent further episodes of contamination.
On January 27, an internal memo sent to the crew of the Amundsen announced that the water it drank exceeded three times the standard for the concentration of lead. Tests conducted in January showed that the lead level reached a threshold of 32 micrograms per liter, while the standard is 10 micrograms per liter.
The Coast Guard says it has closed the problem tank, the starboard tank, as soon as it receives the results. Despite this action, the president of the local union of the Union of Transport Employees, François Paradis, estimates that two crews of 40 men have drunk this water for at least 3 weeks.
At the request of the union, many of these sailors will undergo screening tests. “Some are going to meet doctors to do medical tests to find out if they have been infected,” says Paradis.
A renovated system in the fall
In 2017, a CBC investigation revealed multiple cases of contamination of drinking water on Coast Guard vessels. The Amundsen seamen had also jointly signed a complaint about the quality of the drinking water on board the vessel.
As a result of this investigation, the CCG completely refurbished the Amundsen’s drinking water tanks before returning them to service. Although the source of the lead is still unknown, the union blames the employer for not being more precautionary.
“What we deplore is that the employer, before putting the tank in operation, he should have waited to have the results of analysis to ensure that the water meets the standard,” François plague Paradise.
A source still unknown
The Canadian Coast Guard refused Radio-Canada’s request for an interview. She says “to be aware of the situation and take the necessary action”.
Although the source of the lead contamination remains unknown, “health and toxicology specialists have been contacted and the collection of technical information continues,” says the Coast Guard.
The drinking water consumed by Amundsen seamen currently comes from the port tank, which did not have any unusual lead levels.
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