01/13/2015 11:32 EST | Updated 03/15/2015 05:59 EDT

HMCS Annapolis cannot be moved, Federal Court rules

A Federal Court judge has stalled plans to sink a former warship in Howe Sound, because of concerns about toxic compounds in the ship's paint.

The Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society is fighting Environment Canada, which granted a permit for the sinking of the HMCS Annapolis to create an artificial reef for divers and marine life.

On Tuesday, the Canadian warship was supposed to be towed from Long Bay to Halkett Bay Marine Park on Gambier Island and sunk this weekend, making it the eighth artificial reef in B.C.

But on Monday a Federal Court judge ruled the ship cannot be moved, and put everything on hold until an injunction is heard on Jan. 27.

Howie Robins, the president of the Artificial Reef Society of B.C., said sinking the ship is intended to create a habitat for all sorts of marine life.

"It's a whole new opportunity for recreational scuba adventure and we are thrilled to have it so close to Vancouver," he said. 

The society has been working on the project since 2008, and says the Annapolis has been meticulously cleaned of hazardous and pollutant materials in compliance with federal regulations.

But local residents and environmental groups have opposed the sinking, saying the bay is too small and the ship too big, and tests show that the paint on the bottom of the ship is toxic.

The group says despite clean-up efforts, testing has revealed the paint on the ship still contains highly toxic tributyltins, chemical compounds commonly used in marine anti-fouling paints to stop organisms from attaching to hulls. The compounds have since been banned by international treaties.

Google Maps: Halkatt Bay Provincial Marine Park