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.

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

 

Just Posted

Sooke temporary homeless shelter packs up early

Occupants to leave facility by June 22

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read