As the temperature drops, home oil tanks are being filled, creating prime conditions for leaks to seep into the environment and salmon habitat.
It’s become a “seasonal issue” in Saanich, said Harley Machielse, the director of engineering for the district. He’s recommending residents check their tanks for rust and holes before filling their tanks this fall.
“Unknown to them, they might have a leak in their tank. During the first heavy rainfall, that creates a spill that typically enters our creeks and waterways through our storm drainage system,” he said.
Despite being able to track a leak through waterways and back to their source, the district’s cleanup crew can’t 100 per cent remediate the damage caused. Oil seeps into the ground leading to and surrounding creeks and can cause long-term damage to fish habitat — who spawn in the fall when tanks are most likely to leak.
“One is too many. We’d like to have no spills,” he said.
Machielse said the district of Saanich usually has five spills from home oil tanks a year. Saanich, in particular, has a high proportion of oil tanks, he said, likely because of when the district was developed.
Last year, a leak from a home on O’Connell Place bled into the Colquitz River, where more than 1,000 coho salmon spawn. The homeowner is on the line for any reparation costs, and home insurance doesn’t always cover it.
It’s not just tanks in use that could cost homeowners. Old oil tanks can also leak fluids into the environment, and a Saanich bylaw states tanks not used for more than two years need to be removed. Machielse said residents should be proactive by checking what’s on their property and removing the risk.