Victoria’s Inner Harbour was listed as B.C.’s most polluted coastal waterway in the Vital Signs report, from the Victoria Foundation. (James MacKenzie/News Staff)

Victoria’s Inner Harbour most polluted waterway in B.C.

High levels of contaminants like lead, mercury and PCBs contribute to problem

Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the most polluted coastal waterway in all of B.C., according to stats gleaned from the city’s annual Vital Signs report.

Pollutants can come from a variety of sources including water discharge, road run-off, shipping and construction. However, according to Transport Canada, the largest contributor has been the industrial activity in the area.

“There has been a long history of industrial activity in Victoria Harbour, and that the major pollutants of concern are those that are persistent and don’t degrade easily in the environment,” Transport Canada senior communications advisor Annie Joannette saidin an email.

“The biggest contributors to pollution in the harbour have been historical industrial activity, such as paint factories and coal gasification plants,” she added.

READ MORE: Claremont students bring marine life back to Victoria International Marina

The resulting contaminants include metals such as copper, lead and zinc, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Dioxins and furans.

Since the 1990s, Transport Canada has been trying to remediate the pollutants and their ensuing complications with efforts that include environmental testing programs for sediments and seafood tissues, co-ordinating stormwater source control activities, and most recently a $60 million iinvestment for contaminated sites within the Harbour.

In 2016, 290,000 tonnes of contaminated soil were removed in the Rock Bay Area and recently, Transport Canada announced they will spend over $17 million to remove and replace contaminated soil at Laurel Point Park.

READ MORE: Transport Canada announces $17M for pollutant clean up in Victoria Park, removal of abandoned boats

Locally, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) is also doing its best to stay green, undergoing several audits per year from third party organizations, including the Clean Marine BC Program and the Green Marine Environmental Program.

Al-Nashir Charania, GVHA environmental projects manager, said in 2018 the authority scored 5/5 in several categories, including spill prevention and community impact.

“On a daily, monthly and annual basis we do what we can to clean up the harbour,” Charania said, pointing to the annual harbour cleanup with VicPD. “Annually we work with the VicPD in a harbour clean up… “Every year we tend to gather over half a tonne of garbage, this year we collected two tires in the harbour.”

On a monthly basis, Charania added boats go out to skim the water for garbage, and on a daily basis the GVHA participates in waste collection and management in all their facilities and offer clean pump-out facilities for all the boats in the harbour.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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