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Gas smell prompts concerns about fuel spill in Coquitlam

Source of the gas smell identified as boat fuel, mixed with water; city crews used absorbent pads to stop it from going down the catch basin
Cone marks spot of fuel
The City of Coquitlam has placed a cone and absorbent material over a catch basin to stop boat fuel from leaking into the storm sewer.

Quick-thinking Coquitlam residents may have stopped boat fuel from draining into Stoney Creek during heavy rains Monday night (Nov. 29).

Several neighbours in the area of Chapman Avenue and Stoney Creek Court, in the Oakdale neighbourhood west of Clarke Road, were alerted to the smell of gas at around 7 p.m.

Two people who contacted the Tri-City News expressed concerns about a possible spill into the creek that runs from the southeast slope of Burnaby Mountain into the Brunette River.

Leslie Watts, who lives a couple of blocks away from where the spill occurred, said the smell of gas was so strong in Stoney Creek that runs 100 feet from the front of her house, she called the city.

“A significant amount of fuel was discharged into the creek,” said Watts in an email to the to the Tri-City News.

Coquitlam city crews were called to the scene at approximately 7:15 p.m., and determined the smell came from a mixture of fuel and water from a boat that was parked on the street.

The boat owner was planning to take the boat in for repairs, said a spokesperson from the City of Coquitlam.

"The homeowner removed a plug and some fuel/water mixture dripped out of the hull and onto the roadway," stated Jonathan Helmus, director of utilities with the city.

To prevent any of the fuel mixture from getting into the nearby catch basin, Coquitlam staff put down some absorbant mixture and pads, Helmus said.

And while he's not sure if any of the fuel flowed into the catch basin and down the storm sewer, he said it appeared the absorbent pads were doing a good job of mopping up the mixture.

The material has since been removed and the boat has been taken off the street.

"We’ve cleaned all that up. It’s incredible what that kind of stuff can soak up," Helmus said.

No charges will be laid, however, Helmus said the boat owner was cooperative and knew he had made a mistake.

"If people see something, it’s good for them to call us, then we can do this kind of investigation."

The city also encourages people to clean out nearby catch basins and not to change oil or do other work on city streets that could result in a spill.

"Nothing but rain should go down the drain," Helmus commented.

There are more than 16,000 catch basins in the City of Coquitlam, and people are encouraged to "adopt" and maintain them.

These curbside drains help prevent flooding by directing rainwater into the city’s drainage system, which flows directly into local creeks, streams and aquatic habitat. 

In recent days, members of the Stoney Creek Environmental Committee have been raising concerns about sewage pouring out of storm drains in heavy rains.

One resident told Glacier Media he found soiled toilet paper and sanitary products strewn across the road after a manhole blew its lid at the Burnaby-Coquitlam border. 

"There is no attempt being made to collect this sewage," wrote local stream keeper George Kovacic in an email. "The sewage is flowing into storm drains and polluting Stoney Creek as well as the creek's spawning salmon, endangered Nooksack dace and other wildlife."

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart has said he is aware of the issue, particularly in older neighbourhoods, such as Oakdale and Maillardvile, where drain pipes have been wrongly attached sanitary sewer lines.

- with files from Stefan Labbé, Glacier Media