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Lead Contamination the Latest Concern on Canada's Arctic Patrol Ships

HMCS Harry DeWolf

Published Dec 18, 2022 2:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Canadian Navy's new arctic and offshore patrol ships (AOPS) suffered a further blow when it was announced that increased levels of lead in the ships' water systems meant that sailors had to be supplied with bottled water. It is the latest in a series of recent problems that have plagued the vessels.

The water quality problems were first detected on the HMCS Harry DeWolf. The Canada Department of National Defence has said that it is investigating the fittings and valves in the water system, which were manufactured from alloys that exceed lead requirements. The same fittings are already in place on three other recently built Canadian navy ships, including the HMCS Margaret Brooke, HMCS Max Bernays, and HMCS William Hall.

"Our priority is and will always be the safety of our members," a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence told CTV News. "To accept the ship, we put into place mitigation measures for the near and medium-term including regular water testing and providing RCN members with bottled water while onboard."

The federal government contracted Halifax's Irving Shipbuilding to build eight arctic and offshore patrol ships, six for the Department of National Defence and two ships for the Canadian Coast Guard. Three ships have already been delivered; a fourth, HMCS Max Bernays, is set to be delivered in the fall.

The contaminated drinking water aboard the arctic and offshore patrol ships is the latest problem with the $4 billion program. HMCS Harry DeWolf could not carry out exercises in August in the far north owing to the failure of her diesel generators. 

The problem with the generators is the latest in a series of mechanical issues the ship encountered. She was to have joined in on the exercise Operation Nanook in early August but was left at the port as the fire suppression system was not operating correctly.