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Spill in Sidney’s Reay Creek turns into ecological lesson for local children

Federal-provincial investigation ongoing into what appears to be a bleach spill
Cheyenne, six, Savannah, three, and Jeremiah Sinclair, 8, were out on walk with their mother on June 4 when they discovered the first of several hundred fish that died after bleach leaked into Reay Creek. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

As authorities continue to investigate a spill that killed hundreds of fish in Sidney, the incident has also been an educational experience for the children who made the grisly discovery.

Summer Sinclair and her children Jeremiah, eight; Cheyenne, six, and Savannah, three, were walking along Reay Creek around 1:45 p.m. on June 4 when they discovered the first of what would ultimately be more than 300 dead fish. While the investigation is ongoing, initial signs point toward bleach as the contamination agent, entering the creek through a stormwater drain via a perimeter drain.

Jeremiah said the discovery of the fish surprised them. “So then I ran home, put on my boots and grabbed the big long net that we have and we pulled them out of the water,” he said.

RELATED: Several hundred fish dead in Sidney’s Reay Creek after suspected bleach leak

After catching some fish and putting them in a bucket, Summer Sinclair eventually called the Town of Sidney after having noticed more in the water.

“That is when all the excitement began and these kids were hanging out here all afternoon, watching and learning (from crews tracking the cause of the spill and collecting the fish),” she said, adding crews were generous in sharing details about their work.

Sinclair, whose family lives near Reay Creek, said the incident has been a valuable learning experience, giving her children the chance to learn about the effects of pollution and ways to prevent it.

Jeremiah said the entire experience has left him with mixed feelings.

“It was actually pretty fun and it’s also very sad,” he said. “What made it fun was that it was sort of a scavenger hunt, finding all of the dead fish. The sad part is that the fish died.”

RELATED: North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Both federal and provincial authorities are investigating the incident. The provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is the lead agency determining the cause of mortality, while the federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is looking into whether any federal legislation prohibiting the disposition of harmful substances into waters frequented by fish were violated.

The Sidney Anglers’ Association has since recognized the children with gifts.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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