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Port Moody spill harmless, but a timely reminder

A spill that turned a small stream behind Port Moody's rec centre milky white has been deemed harmless. But a local environmantal advocate says it's a timely reminder to pay attention to what might be going down storm drains.
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A spill in December turned Suterbrook Creek foamy for a stretch. Environmental advocate Judy Talyor-Atkinson says such spills are happening more frequently, including one March 8 that turned a stream behind Port Moody's recreation centre milky white.

A spill that turned a small stream behind Port Moody’s recreation complex milky white was only minor and quickly dealt with.

But an environmental advocate says such incidents are happening more frequently and residents as well as businesses must pay attention to what they might be washing down into local storm drains.

Julie Pavey-Tomlinson, Port Moody’s director of environment and parks, said firefighters responded to a call on March 8 about a possible hazardous materials incident in the stream near the tennis courts, but much of the white substance had already dissipated.

They notified the city’s environment and parks division, which was able to trace the substance to someone who had flushed about a litre of white paint into a nearby storm drain.

“The person responsible has been identified and contacted,” Pavey-Tomlinson said. “The city will pursue enforcement action under the stream and drainage protection bylaw.”

Violators of the bylaw can face a fine up to $150.

Pavey-Tomlinson said Emergency Management BC was notified about the spill, but an assessment determined there had been no harm caused to fish or other wildlife.

Judy Taylor-Atkinson, an environmental advocate, said a similar spill occurred five days earlier in Hutchinson Creek on the north side of the Burrard Inlet and, last December, a stretch of Suterbrook Creek was covered with foaming white suds that “took hours” to wash away.

Taylor-Atkinson said many types of household liquids can be harmful to the delicate ecosystem of local streams if they’re not properly disposed of.

“All paints, solvents and adhesives contain chemicals that are harmful to aquatic life in creeks, lakes and oceans,” she said, adding even substances like ash can coat the gills of fish and kill them.

Taylor-Atkinson said it’s especially important people remain vigilant about what they’re washing down their patios, driveways and parkades as they start getting ready for warmer spring weather. “The accumulated dirt and oils show up in the streams,” she said.

• Anyone observing spill incidents or any other environmental concerns should call the city of Port Moody’s 24-hour customer service line at 604-469-4574. If the spill is believed to be hazardous, or a danger to public safety, call 911 and ask for fire rescue.