News

Heating oil spill contaminates Colquitz River Park

Crews from Saanich public works set up a containment boom on the Colquitz River, after a home heating oil spill was discovered just up the hill from the bank, at a home on Rolston Crescent. - Kyle Slavin/News staff
Crews from Saanich public works set up a containment boom on the Colquitz River, after a home heating oil spill was discovered just up the hill from the bank, at a home on Rolston Crescent.
— image credit: Kyle Slavin/News staff

A home heating oil spill on the bank of the Colquitz River was caught Thursday night before the oil reached the salmon-bearing stream.

Mike Ippen, Saanich's manager of public works, says the spill was discovered Thursday afternoon when a passerby in Colquitz River Park could smell a strong odour of oil and notified Saanich.

Public works crews traced the spill back to a home in the 3400-block of Rolston Cres., which sits on a hill just above the creek.

"We worked late into the night putting containment in place, so oil never actually got into the Colquitz. It's just in the soil," Ippen said.

A long containment boom, as well as absorbent pads and siphon dams have been set up, and Saanich will continue to monitor them over the coming days.

"If it rains, we want to make sure that anything that bleeds through the soil will be captured before it gets to the river," he said.

The leak came as a result of a broken supply line between a home heating tank and a furnace.

The homeowner, who declined to speak to the News, has hired a private contractor to do remediation work. The company that supplies the fuel is also working to determine just how much oil leaked into the soil.

"We think it was a slight drip, but over a few days it just emptied the tank," Ippen said.

The Colquitz watershed is no stranger to oil spills. Since 2011 there have been at least eight oil spills that contaminated the creek, including an 1,100 litre home heating oil spill in November 2011 and a mineral oil leak from a B.C. Hydro line last year.

Thursday's leak contaminated parkland on the direct opposite creek bank that B.C. Hydro had excavated earlier this year, in a project that removed 850 tons of earth soiled from a low-toxicity oil surrounding a transmission cable.

It's not known yet if the creek will be subjected to another soil excavation project.

Less than a kilometre down the creek from the location of the contaminated soil, stream stewards monitor the health of the Colquitz and count the number of salmon returning in the fall and winter to spawn.

A record year, so far more than 1,250 salmon have passed through the fish fence this fall to head upstream to spawn.

Ippen says Saanich crews will continue to monitor the situation, but they've handed cleanup duties to the contractor. Workers will be removing vegetation and conducting soil samples to ensure remediation is done.

For information on how to better protect yourself from a home heating oil spill, visit saanich.ca/services/utilities/spills.html.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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