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Saanich crews contain spill of paint thinner in Bowker Creek

Saanich public works crews contained a toxic spill in Bowker Creek this week. Residents in the Haultain Street area alerted Saanich of fumes and a fuel sheen on the creek water and banks on Wednesday.
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Bowker Creek near Haultain Street, where the creek was contaminated by a paint thinner. The incident is a good reminder to dispose of any household or commercial products that may harm the environment at an approved disposal facility, says Saanich spokeswoman Megan Catalano. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Saanich public works crews contained a toxic spill in Bowker Creek this week.

Residents in the Haultain Street area alerted Saanich of fumes and a fuel sheen on the creek water and banks on Wednesday.

Saanich spokeswoman Megan Catalano said crews determined the contaminant was a type of paint thinner and placed absorbent booms in the creek to contain as much of the substance as possible.

The amount and source of the spill, which was reported to Emergency Management B.C., were not determined, she said, but the incident is a good reminder to dispose of any household or commercial products that may harm the environment at an approved disposal facility.

Nearby resident Deanna Pfiefer said she watched Saanich crews lay absorbent pads and noticed a “very strong odour” while walking along Richmond Road.

Bowker Creek travels eight kilometres from its spring-fed source on the University of ­Victoria campus and spills out near Oak Bay Marina. About 60% of the urban creek is underground through Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.

On those final few hundred metres where the creek is above ground, volunteers working to restore the creek celebrated last month the return of salmon to the urban waterway after more than a century.

Small chum fry emerged from their egg boxes, buried in gravel, near Monteith Street, in early April. They quickly swam out to sea, but the prospect of more pollution along the waterway is worrying to those working hard to restore it.

“Any type of pollution is concerning,” said Gerald Harris, a director with the friends of Bowker Creek. “We’re bringing the salmon back to make the stream healthier.”