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Colquitz River polluted – again – after 630 litres of heating oil spills in Saanich

More than 630 litres of home heating oil spilled into Saanich's natural environment yesterday morning, contaminating the Colquitz River for the second time in three months.

Saanich public works crews were alerted to the spill at a home on Brookridge Place near Glanford Avenue and Vanalman Avenue around 9:30 Thursday morning. The source of the spill was found to be a ruptured fuel line between the oil tank and the home.

Graham Knox, manager of B.C.’s environmental emergency program, says the oil soaked into the property, and subsequently entered the Colquitz River via the storm water system.

"Saanich isolated the perimeter drain, so no more contaminants can get into the river," he said. "They've been instructed and have hired an environmental consultant to begin carrying out the necessary remediation work."

The Colquitz was hit by a 1,000-litre oil spill in November, after a home heating tank on Kenneth Avenue failed. That spill happened right in the middle of salmon spawning season, as Coho return to the Colquitz River to mate and lay their eggs (roe).

Knox says this is the 10th home heating oil spill on Vancouver Island since September 2011, and the fifth to happen in Saanich.

"These spills are a significant concern," he said. "If you add them up, these small spills represent a larger volume (of contaminants) than all the big (oil tanker and oil rig) spills every year."

Thursday's spill doesn't appear to be having as much of an environmental impact as the one in November. Knox says crews aren't seeing oil sheen on the surface of the river.

"We obviously want to keep it from going into water. But once it gets in, the fact that there's this big rainfall event, that's good in the sense that at least it's diluting (the river) and reducing the potential toxic impacts," he said.

Signage has been put up along parts of the Colquitz and in contaminated area warning residents about the spill.

Residents are reminded that if an oil spill occurs as a result of a failed oil tank on your property, all cleanup and remediation costs (which can reach the hundreds of thousands of dollars) are your responsibility.

If you see a contamination or leak, contact the Provincial Emergency Program immediately at 1-800-663-3456.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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