Spill in Central Saanich's Graham Creek traced to paving facility

The province has identified the globs of black stuff gumming up parts of Graham Creek in Central Saanich as an asphalt-type product of low toxicity.

The Environment Ministry identified the source as Island Asphalt’s facility in the Keating Industrial Park.

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“The product is confirmed to be an asphalt-related product (SS1 Emulsifier) used as a tack coating for the application of asphalt and is of low toxicity,” the Environment Ministry Saturday in an emailed statement.

An Island Asphalt spray truck sprung a leak Thursday, said Cory Sangha, assistant general manager of OK Industries Ltd., Island Asphalt’s parent company, but the company was confident it had been contained.

“Saturday morning, upon reading the Times Colonist, we realized the spill could have come from our site,” Sangha said in an email.

“We immediately contacted the Ministry of Environment and met them on site.”

The company is working with Central Saanich and the province and has contracted B.C. Hazmat Ltd. and Terivita to assess the spill and remediate the creek.

“OK Industries Ltd. is doing everything in our power to have the spill rectified quickly and professionally,” Sangha said.

The spill was discovered Friday morning. Provincial emergency crews and Central Saanich municipal workers were tasked with containing and cleaning up the spill.

Ian Bruce, executive co-ordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, said he’s pleased the government identified the substance and the source. “It’s good that it’s low toxicity, but the residue is going to be there quite a while,” he said.

However, he was less pleased with the Environment Ministry’s suggestion that there were “no overt signs of impact to wildlife or vegetation” at this time.

“That’s just a ridiculous statement — there’s tar in the creek,” Bruce said.

Unlike gas, which is volatile and stinks but evaporates, the asphalt-like compound is low toxicity and doesn’t smell, but it sticks to everything, he said.

Provincial and municipal staff and the company were on site Saturday. The Conservation Officer Service has also been notified.

The cleanup costs are the responsibility of the company. The Environment Ministry will set the conditions that the company must satisfy with regards to the cleanup and restoration of the creek, a ministry spokesman said.

“Additional work will be conducted by Island Asphalt and their contractor to clean the storm water system, prevent further transport of the materials, and conduct appropriate cleanup,” the ministry said in an email.

charnett@timescolonist.com

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