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

McKenzie construction continues to pollute Colquitz

Turbidity caused by sediment runoff is harmful for salmon fry and smolts, and other life in the Colquitz River. Submitted

A mistake by construction crews last week sent the latest sediment runoff from the $85 million McKenzie interchange project into the Colquitz River.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said on Feb. 13 about 80 gallons of sediment-contaminated water was pumped into a ditch along Portage Road, a common construction practice to allow small amounts of silty water to drain through the ground. However, it did not seep through the ground as anticipated and found its way to a catch basin, overwhelming the sediment protection that was in place at that location. The water then flowed down into the Colquitz River.

What irks local steward Dorothy Chambers, a longstanding environmental steward and outspoken advocate for the river, is that spills such as this have now happened multiple times. Crews broke a storm drain, then there was an illegal use of the sewer to drain excess water that ended up with raw sewage overflowing into the street.

Sediment turbidity in a river is a serious threat to the aquatic life, especially the spawning salmon and other fish currently in the Colquitz. The runoff could be setting back decades of protection and restoration work to the Gorge and the sensitive Colquitz ecosystem (which is also a federally protected bird sanctuary), if not completely undoing it, worries Chambers, pointing to the murky and yellow waters at the edge of the Colquitz.

On top of that, it wasn’t until the contractor was contacted by Saanich staff that construction crew blocked water from entering the catch basin (MOTI confirmed the water contained sediment only, and was without oil, sewage or other contaminants).

“Where the hell are the environmental monitors,” said Chambers, who has said she lost trust in the project long ago. “Look at the Colquitz salmon run, we had 1,100 last year and this year it had 315.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said that environmental monitors frequently visit the McKenzie project site. MOTI also said the contractor is taking full responsibility for the Feb. 13 incident and ministry staff are discussing further environmental protection plans with them for similar work in the future. However, they added, the type of work being carried out with CRD waterline installation and weather conditions on Feb. 13 did not warrant an environmental monitor to oversee the work, and therefore, there was no monitor on site that day.

Chambers isn’t the only voice protesting this.

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming visited the site in 2016, local MP Randall Garrison has published an op-ed about it, while members of the Gorge Tillicum Residents Association have expressed outright fury.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich man killed in Alberta shooting

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

PHOTOS: Colwood middle school students let sparks fly at trades workshop

Day-long program immerses students in metalwork, carpentry, and electrical work

Saanich’s plastic bag ban won’t be affected by the Supreme Court ruling against Victoria

Council amended Saanich’s ban to align with the B.C. Court of Appeal’s ruling in November

West Shore Parks & Recreation to unveil new indoor sports complex by end of January

Grand opening of sport court and turf field planned for Jan. 31 at 10 a.m.

Powerful Russian folk trio makes triumphant return to city

Trio Voronezh back on Victoria stage for first time since appearing at Coupe Mondiale in 2013

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en activists say Victoria arrests a ‘perpetuation of violence’

Group demonstrating in Victoria in protest of Coastal GasLink pipeline

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Brownie, a St. Bernard mix, found suffering from gunshot wound in B.C. Peace region

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

Ucluelet and Tofino mayors call for “calmness” and “empathy” as highway closure cuts communities off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Was Bigfoot just spotted on a Washington State webcam?

Sherman Pass is rougly 70 kilometres south of Grand Forks, B.C.

B.C. employer health tax wins ‘paperweight award’ for red tape

Businesses forced to estimate payroll, pay new tax quarterly

Red Carpet Valentine’s event will aid Sooke charities

This is a chance to have that “red carpet” experience

New U.S. LNG terminal near northwestern B.C. town proposed

AlaskCAN International LNG wants terminal just over Canadian border, but using B.C gas

Most Read