A Port Coquitlam volunteer streamkeeping group is dealing with its biggest fish kill in recent memory after someone washed or dumped toxic fluid down a storm drain.
Dozens of fish, including small salmon and rainbow and cutthroat trout, were killed in Hyde Creek last week, raising concerns that the toxic substance may have also entered the food chain, possibly poisoning an otter and nearby eagles.
Helen Howes, a director with the Hyde Creek Watershed Society, said the outflow of toxic fluid happened last Thursday (March 10), from a drainage pipe that collects water from the Lincoln Drive neighbourhood.
"The toxic substance was released into a storm drain in the Lincoln Drive area of Port Coquitlam and entered Hyde Creek via a small culvert on the east bank of the creek near Coast Meridian Road," she said.
The poisoned water then flowed east past the Hyde Creek Recreation Centre, killing fish along the way.
Over several days, volunteers and fisheries and environment officials from the federal and provincial governments walked the creek picking up the dead fish and burying them so they wouldn't be eaten by other wildlife.
"It was quite a bit of the creek that was affected," said Howes, who said she suspects the substance was poured or washed down a storm drain by a "careless" person who was cleaning out their garage.
While the group doesn't know who is responsible, they suspect it was someone in the Lincoln Drive neighbourhood.
Howes is warning people to avoid putting paint, pool water or other substances into the storm drain because it could end up killing fish, destroying the hatchery and possibly endangering other wildlife that live in the creek or the forest along Hyde Creek.
An otter, which is living in Hyde Creek, could have died if it ate some of the poisoned fish.
"Not only are we concerned about the fish kill and the species lost from this event, but we realized that we 'dodged a bullet' in that if the release had entered the pool at Coast Meridian, a little bit further west, then our creek intake would have distributed this toxic water into the hatchery and we would have lost all our eggs and the Coho from our on-site rearing pond," she said.
The group is asking people to be more careful during the spring cleaning season.
"It’s a good reminder this time of year as people start cleaning up and dumping out the Round Up they’ve been storing in their garage for years," said Howes.