Contaminated creek in Sidney getting work done

Transport Canada engaged in preliminary review prior to cleaning up Reay Creek

Retired DFO ocean scientist Rob Macdonald, left, and Peninsula Streams executive director Ian Bruce show off the core samples taken from sediment in Reay Creek Pond in Sidney back in 2015. (Steven Heywood/News Staff file)

New work is taking place this month around Sidney’s Reay Creek Pond, a body of water classed by Transport Canada as an active contaminated site.

Reay Creek Residents group spokesperson Bill Collins sent an email recently, notifying people who live around the pond and along the creek, that Transport Canada has contracted a local consulting firm to “carry out topographic surveys” of the upper reaches of the creek. Collins said such work is an indication of scientific investigation and is part of the groundwork for remediation.

The residents’ group is part of the overall Reay Creek working group headed up by the Town of Sidney. It includes Transport Canada, the Victoria Airport Authority and District of North Saanich.

Contamination in the waterway has been known for years, but independent testing done in 2015 — and again by Transport Canada in 2016 — officially confirmed the presence of heavy metals in the pond and creek bed sediment. High levels of cadmium, zinc, lead and chromium have been found buried in the sediment. While the Town stated in 215 that there was no danger to the public, the municipality did put up signs in 2016, warning residents and park users to keep themselves, children and pets out of the soil along the creek.

The contamination is generally believed to have come from years of operations at the Victoria International Airport — or the Pat Bay Air Station, when it was built in the early 1940s. In recent years the Victoria Airport Authority, which took over operation of the airport from Transport Canada in 1997, has been spending its own money on projects to clean up the creeks on its property.

Transport Canada declined an interview with the Peninsula News Review, but in an emailed statement, said they are “undertaking environmental assessment and survey work to determine the extent of contamination in Reay Creek within the Victoria International Airport land, Town of Sidney and District of North Saanich.”

“The purpose of collecting the environmental and survey information is to identify the preliminary scope and estimated cost of remediation options.”

According to the federal government’s contaminated sites list, Transport Canada set aside $80,300 in 2016/17 for preliminary work. They also estimated around 4,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil might be in the area.

In it’s statement to the PNR, Transport Canada noted once the planning is done, they will work with the other stakeholders to develop a final remediation strategy. Any work after that could take place in 2018. Collins noted earlier this year that remediation could range from doing nothing, to monitoring water quality, to removing all contaminants and fixing the creek bed, or even eliminating the pond.

Peninsula’s Active Contaminated Sites

There are four active contaminated sites being looked at by the federal government, according to the online sites list.

In addition to Reay Creek, there are contaminated sites in Tseyhum Harbour, as well as an ‘East Dumpsite’ and ‘West Dumpsite’ both on Department of National Defense lands at the airport.

All of those sites are in some stage of review or remediation and all contain heavy metal contamination, petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

According to the list, the federal government is spending anywhere from $80,000 to $91,800 on these active sites in 2016/17.

The federal contaminated sites list shows there are in excess of 15 spots on the Saanich Peninsula whose files have either been investigated and closed, or are still open.

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Reay Creek in Sidney. Town council is considering removing an upstream dam and the returning the watercourse to full stream status. It’s part of ongoing clean up and restoration discussions with Transport Canada and other partners. (Steven Heywood/News Staff file)

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