The water breach which bypassed the legally required on-site filtration system designed to remove contaminates from the project’s wastewater was first noticed by Dorothy Chambers, a longstanding environmental steward and outspoken advocate for the river, who checks on the salmon-bearing river regularly. (Photo by Dorothy Chambers)

McKenzie Interchange pump failure sends contaminated water into Colquitz River

Sediment release in salmon-bearing river a serious threat to aquatic life, says local activist

Contaminated water from the $85 million McKenzie Interchange project was pumped straight into the Colquitz River Thursday, after a mechanical pump failed during heavy rainfall.

The water breach, which bypassed the legally required on-site filtration system designed to remove contaminates from the project’s wastewater, was first noticed by Dorothy Chambers, a longstanding environmental steward and outspoken advocate for the river who checks on the salmon-bearing river regularly.

“Over an hour passed while I was there before Westpro shut off their pumps. By then the tributary and river itself was thick with their dirty water sediment and I do not know how long they had been pumping into the river before I arrived,” Chambers said.

This type of sediment release in a river is a serious threat to the aquatic life, according to Chambers. The unfiltered water release could set back previous protection and restoration work to the Gorge and the sensitive Colquitz ecosystem (which is also a federally protected bird sanctuary).

The Portage Inlet is a low-flush estuary so it rarely turns its water over. Contaminants settle and stay, affecting the entire ecosystem.

RELATED: ‘Where the hell are the environmental monitors?’ says Colquitz activist

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) investigated the Dec. 13 incident and met with project contractor Westpro (a division of Pomerleau Inc.) and their environment monitors to discuss the incident, and to remind them of their contractual obligation regarding environmental management.

“The contractor is now building redundancies into their practises to account for potential failures of this nature in the future, including increased equipment monitoring during heavy rainfall,” said a spokesperson for MOTI.

This is not the first environmental issue related to the Mackenzie Interchange project. Multiple runoffs have occurred, including a sediment runoff in February and a cement runoff in March.

MOTI has employed an additional firm on the project to conduct periodic environmental monitoring and auditing to ensure the contractor meets their obligations.

This monitoring will continue for the remainder of the work on the McKenzie Interchange.

“We will continue to work closely with the contractor and our municipal partners to monitor the surrounding areas, ensuring they are not negatively impacted by the work at the McKenzie Interchange,” said a spokesperson for MOTI.

RELATED: Cement the latest McKenzie Interchange runoff in Cuthbert Holmes Park

“Saanich remains committed to caring for our natural areas and looks forward to a speedy resolution to this issue,” said Tara Zajac, communications for District of Saanich.

Westpro could not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Residents are encouraged to forward any feedback or concerns to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure at mckenzieinterchange@gov.bc.ca or 250-387-8700.


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Just Posted

500 pounds of turkey served at Cool Aid community Christmas dinner

Annual dinner serves hundreds of community members

VIDEO: Annual Tuba Christmas concert draws large crowd to Market Square

Over 100 tuba and euphonium players gathered to play festive tunes

Revisit Christmas past as Point Ellice House displays Victorian-era traditions

Antique bobbles, cards, decor and more are on display

Bold and brassy quintet touches down at UVic

Internationally recognized Canadian Brass performing with Victoria Symphony on Dec. 21

Saanich church kicks off holidays with peaceful Winter Solstice service

St. Luke’s song-filled Christmas services come later

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Most Read