Cement wash water kills fish in Coquitlam creek

Joan Pettie at the bridge over Smiling Creek in Coquitlam where last Thursday she spotted concrete water wash flowing into the creek and alerted authorities.  - DIANE  STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Joan Pettie at the bridge over Smiling Creek in Coquitlam where last Thursday she spotted concrete water wash flowing into the creek and alerted authorities.

A builder has been fined $500 for washing concrete water wash down a storm drain which resulted in the deaths of several coho and a clogged up a drain in Coquitlam last week.

The incident occurred Thursday during the installation of concrete and aggregate driveways at two new homes in the 3400 block of Roxton Avenue on Burke Mountain. An alert neighbour who was walking her dog over a bridge on Smiling Creek spotted something pouring out of the storm drain into the creek and called the authorities. "I looked down and saw all this white stuff coming out," Joan Pettie said.

Shane Peachman, a director of the Hyde Creek Watershed Society, showed up, as did a Coquitlam employee who found the source — a man hosing concrete water wash into a trench and down into the storm drain. The man stopped but the material had already filled in the pools where a few coho fish were swimming and they died.

"Some of them were trying to jump out," Pettie said.

However, Verne Kucy, the city's acting manager of environmental services, said very little material actually ended up in the creek. However, the active substance was cement which raises the ph level of water, and is harmful to fish.

The creek is only about 50 metres from the house and has almost dried up from lack of rain. Peachman said the fish that remained in the pools were likely stock from the Hyde Creek hatchery. "We're trying to replenish the upper part of the creek," he explained, adding that new people in the Burke Mountain neighbourhood should know that all storm drains lead to a creek and any toxic materials hosed into them could kill fish — and result in hefty fines.

The builder will have to pay $500 for breaking the city's Prohibited Discharge bylaw and will have to clean up the mess, which will mean pumping the material out of the sump and about 50 metres of storm drainage. The cleanup was expected to take place this week and will have to be inspected by the city.

"The city will take further action if the clean up is not done to the city's satisfaction," stated Colleen Smith, a city communications coordinator, in an email.


Low water could be a danger to fish and pollution will only make matters worse. According to Peachman, the The Hyde Creek Watershed Society is concerned about water levels at the hatchery down stream on Hyde Creek (Smiling Creek is a tributary) and is planning to dig another well to make up for the shortage. The problem could either be a plugged lens in the original well or a low water table owing to water changes caused by development, he said, and the society is raising funds to pay for the $76,000 project.

For more information or to donate, visit here.


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