Heating oil spill damage at Colquitz Creek minimized by fast response

An alert citizen and a quick response by Saanich public works’ crews are being credited with minimizing the impact of a home-heating oil spill near Colquitz Creek.

A pedestrian was in Colquitz Park Thursday and saw a sheen on the footpath and noted the air reeked with the smell of oil, said Mike Ippen, Saanich public works manager, on Sunday.

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Public works staff traced the leak to an above-ground home-heating oil tank on a home on Rolston Crescent.

The homeowner had some work done and the tank had been moved to get drainage work done, Ippen said.

The homeowner didn’t realize there was a leak until Saanich workers notified him, Ippen said.

The leak originated from a supply line close to the house foundation, Ippen said.

It’s estimated that two thirds of the tank, or about 500 litres, spilled into the ground.

Colquitz oil spill at Rolston Cres.

The homeowner contacted an environmental company to clean up the spill. Saanich crews dug ditches to divert oil way from the river.

There are containment booms along the river to keep oil from spreading downstream.

So far, no oil has reached the river, Ippen said.

This is the latest in a number of home-heating oil spills in the older neighbourhood, something Ippen attributes to the age of the oil tanks and supply lines.

It’s not yet clear if the homeowner will be billed for spill costs. Some insurance companies are refusing to pay for these kinds of incidents, Ippen said.

He suggests homeowners monitor their tanks and supply lines and be aware that leaks can occur.

“The insurance companies are doing a good job of educating people about the risks,” said Ippen.

Dorothy Chambers, one of the volunteers who monitor the fish-counting fence downstream, said she saw oil contained within the orange booms.

“There’s a sheen on the bank but it really hasn’t got into the river,” said Chambers.

The stench is strong along a footpath that’s below the house where the leak started, she said.

“It reeks really strongly down there,” said Chambers.

“Our concern is about the rains coming...that it will wash the fuel oil into the river,” she said.

Chambers said she’s really pleased the pedestrian in the park reported the spill immediately to Saanich public works.

“That’s been my message to the community — that if you see it, you smell it and if it doesn’t belong there to please call Saanich municipality and PEP (Provincial Emergency Program),” Chambers said.

Had there not been a quick response “it would be in the river, the whole works,” said Chambers.

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