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Water advocacy group launches campaign to protect Coquitlam-Burnaby creek

Is enough action being taken to protect Stoney Creek, which runs through Burnaby and Coquitlam?

CodeBlueBC is asking residents of Coquitlam and Burnaby to stand up for a creek that runs through the two cities.

This week the water advocacy group issued a call for action to fight for the health of the creek that has been polluted by sewage overflows during heavy rains and construction mishaps.

"Hopefully, this will be the action that will finally prod our authorities to stop the spewing sewage and dump incidents that too often pollute Stoney Creek," said George Kovacic, who is a Burnaby resident and a staunch defender of the creek.

CodeBlueBC is an advocacy group with 26,000 Facebook followers that has established a plan to protect B.C.'s freshwater resources.

Protecting B.C.'s freshwater resources the group's goal

It wants tougher rules for businesses that extract and sell fresh water for profit, making them pay more to extract water and pay higher fines for pollution and damage to watersheds. The organization also wants training and authority for local groups, including First Nations, so they can look after their local watersheds. 

Protection of B.C.'s fresh water resources has long been a concern, with groups such as the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre raising the issue in a recent report about the potential for water scarcity in B.C. and increasing demand by water bottle companies.

Recently, CodeBlueBC singled out Stoney Creek as an urban creek that needs protection and in its call to action asks people to write letters to local authorities.

"Neither Metro Vancouver nor the City of Coquitlam have outlined a plan to address the sewage overflows," it states.

"Meanwhile, ongoing contamination by developers continues to occur. Please send a letter to Metro Vancouver, Coquitlam city council, the mayor and local MLAs, calling on them to address the spewing sewage and reign in bad development practices in the Stoney Creek watershed and get these companies to clean up their act!"

The call to action also includes a template for a letter-writing campaign.

Metro Vancouver, Coquitlam are aware of the sewage problem

Local residents have been raising concerns about Stoney Creek for several years, most recently during heavy rain storms last fall that resulted in water containing sewage flowing into the creek.

And while some efforts have been raised, residents who live near the creek say the system is over-taxed, and officials are ignoring their calls for protection.

The City of Coquitlam recently fined two contractors for spilling dirty construction water into the creek.

Metro Vancouver and Coquitlam officials say development, with PVC pipes meeting modern-day standards, is not the problem, but rather

  • inflow (rain water seeping into broken pipes)
  • infiltration (ground water penetrating into cracked or broken clay or concrete pipes) is causing the sewer over flows

Metro Vancouver is looking at expanding the Stoney Creek trunk sewer system as part of its proposed 2022–2026 Capital Plan, while Coquitlam is working on a plan to identify problems with residential pipes that result in overflows to the city's sewer system.

However, costs and timing to replace the aging Metro Vancouver sewer have not yet been determined.

Meanwhile, Coquitlam has also started upgrading local sanitary sewers in advance of increased development, aligned with the Servicing Assessment for this neighbourhood, and has a budget to find and fix holes in its own pipes, according to the city.

It has also partnered with Burnaby to purchase water quality monitors to determine how much sewage is impacting local creeks. 

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