Capilano River sewage leak threatens salmon run

“We are concerned about salmon runs,” the Squamish Nation Coun said. Wilson Williams.

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As engineers and government officials try to locate the source of a sewage leak in the Capilano River, the Squamish Nation and a group of volunteers who monitor waterways on the North Shore say they are concerned about the effect on salmon. young people in the river

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“We are concerned about salmon runs,” the Squamish Nation Coun said. Wilson Williams.

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A group of volunteers who monitor the waterways said the spill couldn’t have come at a worse time, when the chum are beginning their journey to the ocean and while the river and streams are at typical August levels because of cold weather. it has delayed the melting of snow cover. .

The Borough of North Vancouver first reported the spill to the British Columbia ministry of the environment on March 6, and despite “extensive testing” throughout the week, investigators from various agencies have been unable to find the source. of the spill, a ministry spokesman said in an email. .

“Additional resources” were to have arrived by Monday to find a solution, and water samples were taken and sent for analysis.

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The ministry is working with the Borough of North Vancouver, the Squamish Nation and the property management of a six-tower condominium development near the spill site.

The condominium development, Woodcroft Estates, said it had learned of “sewer leakage mixed with regular storm outflow” in a culvert to the south of the property on March 7, according to a letter sent to owners and residents. and signed by the strata of Wynford Group. Manager Jihad Faris.

He said he notified the district, the ministry, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Squamish Nation on March 7, and brought in the contractors, who performed dye tests on the plumbing lines.

“At this time, there is still no clear connection between any of the sanitary lines connected to the Woodcroft Estates buildings and the leak found in the sewer,” the letter, dated Monday, reads.

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Some of the raw sewage is being diverted from entering the Capilano River.
Some of the raw sewage is being diverted from entering the Capilano River. Photo by Arlen Redekop /png

Dye and camera tests found that sewage and stormwater from buildings moved into sewers downstream, Faris said. The company will continue to conduct tests, including conducting smoke tests, he said.

Water from buildings is being diverted using culvert sandbags and large tanker trucks on the Fullerton Bridge and will continue until a solution is found, he said.

Engineers are drawing up plans if the source is found to be within Woodcroft Estates.

Williams said a runner using the river trails reported the smell of sewage and pollution he saw in the river. The sewage smell is very strong and there is black and brown debris in the river and on the rocks.

The Squamish Nation tweeted that people should avoid the water and not fish, swim or enter it.

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“Given the generally high number of trail users in the culvert area, it does not appear that the leak has been ongoing for an extended period of time,” Faris said.

The damage to young salmon may never be known, said Keegan Casidy, president of North Shore Streamkeepers.

He said that unless there are cameras or witnesses who have seen dead fish floating around, it will be difficult to determine how many, if any, have died.

But he said the timing for the wild chum couldn’t have been worse because between mid-March and early April they transition from their dormant stage on the riverbed to the free-swimming fry stage, when they begin their two-week journey to the ocean on the way to Alaska.

Large tankers are being brought in to deal with the leak.
Large tankers are being brought in to deal with the leak. Photo by Arlen Redekop /png

“If you’re a chum salmon and you get hit by a contamination event, that’s the worst time,” Casidy said.

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He added that the flow of water is three cubic meters per second, when at this time of year it is usually between 20 and 50 cubic meters per second. That would make any contaminants even more concentrated.

If any of the fry were in the water during the sewage leak, “they would probably have 100 percent mortality,” Casidy said.

The chum returns to spawn in four-year cycles, so it could affect the wild chum stock in 2026, he said.

But the wild stocks are a small portion of the fingerlings that start their journey in the Capilano River, as some 118,000 fingerlings are developing inside the hatchery upstream and have not yet been released, he said.

Casidy also noted that if the wastewater killed invertebrates, such as mayflies and stoneflies, that later fish such as coho trout and rainbow trout fed on, which spend about a year in the river before traveling to the ocean, its reserves could be reduced. affected, too.

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The environment ministry said it would meet other researchers later on Monday.

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