Just when it looked like it was safe for fish to go back in the water, there has been another oil spill in the Colquitz River - the third in a year.
A sheen was noticed on the creek Wednesday during a routine inspection by Saanich public works staff, who found an oily substance seeping from a bank near Interurban Road and Columbine Way.
Within an hour, provincial officials were contacted, booms were placed in the creek to contain and collect the substance and samples were taken to a lab to identify its source and nature, said a statement from Adriane Pollard, Saanich environmental services manager.
It appears the leak may be coming from B.C. Hydro high voltage cables under Interurban Road. B.C.
Hydro is investigating.
Saanich is warning pedestrians along the creek to keep pets and children away from the water.
Christopher Bos, who is lead hand on the fish-counting fence on the creek and spokesman for South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, said any oil in the creek is a concern. But Bos said if the substance is transmission line coolant, it might not be deadly to fish already in the water, although it can be toxic to inhale.
The question is how much the creek can take before it's permanently damaged, he said.
"It's a disappointment every time we have to talk about something like this, but it's one of the realities of an urban waterway," said Bos, adding awareness is growing about the harm caused by oil leaks.
A year ago, 1,000 litres of home heating oil leaked into Swan Creek, then made its way into the Colquitz River, killing coho salmon.
That was followed by a February spill of 634 litres of home heating oil directly into the Colquitz River.
This year, Colquitz stewards were delighted to see the fish returning, despite the oil leaks. About 70 coho have now gone through the counting fence.
If the oil has been seeping out for some time, it could explain why the fish, which gather in Portage Inlet, are choosing to spawn in Craigflower Creek instead of Colquitz, Bos said.
Craigflower has counted more than 500 fish so far.
"It is peculiar," Bos said. "Maybe the fish sense that there's oil in the water and then swim over to Craigflower, where the water is pristine."
Ian Bruce of Peninsula Streams Society, who has been working on the Colquitz and Swan Creek restoration, said he's pleased with the quick response from Saanich.
"Now the remediation can go forward as soon as possible," he said, adding the cleanup will be an engineering challenge, since the material leaked into a steep bank leading into the creek.
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