Potentially hazardous mould found in Canadian warship

The military officer in charge of naval engineering says the health of sailors remains the navy’s top priority

Inadequate ventilation, poor maintenance and old equipment are being blamed for causing a buildup of potentially hazardous airborne mould aboard Canada’s most advanced warships, newly released Defence Department documents show.

The department’s Directorate of Force Health Protection says an air quality assessment aboard HMCS Winnipeg found higher-than-normal levels of mould spores in three compartments while the frigate was sailing from Tokyo to Hawaii in July 2017.

The navy first learned of mould problems in its frigates in 2011 as the ships were being prepared for a thorough modernization process that concluded in 2016.

A report from March 2015 — prepared by the engineering firm Bronswerk and released this week — found the frigates’ ventilation and air conditioning systems had “significantly degraded” over the years because of a lack of maintenance, leaving the equipment “old and unsupportable.”

The findings are important because some sailors have long complained of health problems they say could be related to mould exposure while serving aboard Canada’s 12 Halifax-class frigates.

“It’s proof the navy was pretty much lying about keeping track and looking after the mould,” said Alan Doucette, a retired navy lieutenant who served aboard two destroyers in the early 2000s before he was medically released in 2012.

“It’s vindication. It’s proof that they let the whole system deteriorate while people were serving on-board … I lost my career over it.”

Doucette has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging his health was ruined by exposure to mould while serving on ships that had the same heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems as the frigates.

“It just shows that the brass at the top has no regard for the people doing the job at sea,” he said in an interview Friday.

He said he knows of many sailors who are afraid to come forward to reveal their ongoing health problems for fear of being medically released.

“Those living in fear can’t do anything and continue to silently suffer and deteriorate,” he said.

The military officer in charge of naval engineering says the warships’ mould problems have been fixed, and he insisted the health of sailors remains the navy’s top priority.

“Every single system that we have on-board has a maintenance routine associated with it (and) the HVAC system is no exception,” Commodore Simon Page said in an interview Friday.

“Knowing the state of affairs now, the engineering changes we have put in place, and the review done for maintenance procedures over the last few years, I’m extremely comfortable that the proper actions are being taken for our ships remain in good standing for our crew … and their living conditions. “

In all, 20 of Winnipeg’s compartments showed some accumulation of dust or mould.

Airborne mould concentrations were found to be above background levels in an air conditioning plant, the ship’s solid-waste handling plant and an equipment room near the helicopter landing pad. High levels of humidity were also recorded in all three locations.

Page, the navy’s director general of maritime equipment, said the mould problem aboard Winnipeg was minor.

“We had a very small amount of mould in four compartments,” he said. “I would not qualify this as a mould problem. And three of these four compartments are not manned.”

When asked about the potential for the air conditioning system to spread mould throughout the ship, Page said there was a quick fix for that.

“For that problem, we were very aggressive with the issue,” he said, adding that all 12 ships have been modified to prevent water buildup in the air conditioning system. “It was one of those engineering changes that was effected promptly.”

A recent assessment of HMCS Calgary showed even better results, Page said.

While there are no standard exposure limits for airborne concentrations of mould or mould spores, the December 2017 air quality assessment of HMCS Winnipeg says mould is hazardous for people with compromised immune systems or mould allergies.

The Royal Canadian Navy should improve the ships’ ventilation and require more frequent cleaning and inspections of ducts and filters, the report says.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

MLA pushing province and pharmaceutical to save Vernon woman

Cystic fibrosis patient can’t afford $20,000/month medication she needs to survive

Section of Hudson Avenue to receive upgrade

City recieves under-budget bids for packaged projects

Tickets on sale for RCMP Musical Ride in Salmon Arm, Sicamous

Tickets for the upcoming RCMP Musical Ride are now available The world-renowned… Continue reading

Sicamous movie screening to help cause of reconciliation

High school film club bring their first socially conscious movie to town

In photos: Monashee Mountain Men Black Powder Shoot

Black powder firearms enthusiasts gathered together to test their skills at the… Continue reading

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

VIDEO: How to use naloxone to stop a fentanyl overdose

ANKORS’ Chloe Sage shows what to do when someone is overdosing

B.C. piano teacher faces more sex assault charges

Dmytro Kubyshkin of Coquitlam is accused of sex assault involving former students

Mounties cleared after shooting B.C. man armed with toy gun

Independent Investigations Office reports it will pass on a report to Crown counsel

Salmon Arm students excel at Regional Track and Field Championships

Youth athletes qualify for provincials in Langley

Soccer glory for Bob Ross FC

Vernon entry takes men’s 35+ cash in 39th National Oldtimers Tournament

UPDATED: BC Ferries freezes plans to nix fuel rebates pending government funds

Claire Trevena says she is ‘extremely disappointed’ by a plan by BC Ferries to remove fuel rebates

Sports shorts

Short sports stories from the community

B.C. sues Alberta over bill that could ‘turn oil taps off’

Lawsuit is the latest move in the two provinces’ ongoing feud over the Kinder Morgan pipeline

Most Read