Roger Dyer (right) and Reed Clarke participate in the annual Stoney Creek salmon count in fall 2021. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Stoney Creek contaminations get provincial scrutiny

The CodeBlue BC campaign, by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, is calling for governments to act.

By Dustin Godfrey | May 25, 2022 |5:00 am

CodeBlue BC, a provincial watershed campaign, has set its sights on a local stream that has been subjected to numerous contaminations over the last several years.

Concrete and sewage have spilled or been poured into Stoney Creek several times in the last few years, including numerous instances during the pandemic.

This includes one contamination, which is believed to have been concrete, but which authorities pinpointed no particular source of, that left hundreds of fish dead in the Burnaby Mountain-area creek.

Stoney Creek runs from the Burquitlam area, down past Lougheed highway to connect with the Brunette River.

Many of the sewage issues appear to have arisen out of sanitary sewage pipes—particularly those in Coquitlam—not meeting the demands of the quickly growing population in the area, especially when heavy rains hit the area, causing sewage to overflow. That, then, flows into storm drains, which, in turn, feed local streams, like Stoney Creek.

But there also appears to be an issue of construction contractors washing cement trucks out and dumping the contents into storm drains unfiltered.

CodeBlue BC, a campaign coordinated by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, took notice of the issue after holding a community event for multiple watershed organizations.

“The Stoney Creek issue kept coming up over and over, so it was a concern for a lot of different organizations that were working in the watershed,” said Danielle Paydli, the interim director with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and co-lead on the CodeBlue BC campaign.

CodeBlue representatives reached out to the Stoney Creek Environmental Committee, particularly speaking to George Kovacic, a resident whose backyard borders the creek.

Kovacic, along with his wife Suzana and his son Luka, has been championing the creek, and in particular the issue of contaminations in the creek, for over a year now.

“We’re obviously really deeply concerned with the sewage spills and with the pollutants in Stoney Creek. We really want to see local and provincial decision-makers come together, work towards solutions for this community,” Paydli said.

“We want to see tougher fines for polluters and do what we need to keep sewage out of the stream.”

Cracking down on polluters, along with water wasters, is one of three planks in the CodeBlue plan, which seeks to protect watersheds in the province.

And it has been a common complaint among local streamkeepers, who have found the $500 fine for a company that contaminated the water at around the same time as the major fish kill, to be “totally inadequate” when the fish kill was significant enough to place Stoney Creek on the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC’s most endangered urban streams list.

CodeBlue also seeks to have management and restoration of local water sources throughout BC handed over to local groups and First Nations.

“There are too many examples in BC where critical community water sources are threatened and degraded by industrial activities that get approved by people without any stake in the local watershed,” reads the CodeBlue website.

Finally, the campaign also wants BC to set up “serious and permanent” funding to protect the province’s watersheds.

Paydli noted everyone in the province lives in a watershed, speaking to the importance of protecting them.

“Each watershed faces unique challenges, so there’s really no one plan that fits all when it comes to our watersheds,” Paydli said, adding that Stoney Creek is not alone in facing environmental issues.

“That’s why … one of the key things that CodeBlue pushes for is the need for local community and First Nations members to be able to be at the decision-making table.”

She said there have been local successes in various communities on similar issues, but called it a “bigger provincial issue.”

“It is highlighting the mismanagement of our watershed,” Paydli said.

CodeBlue has launched a campaign specifically on Stoney Creek, asking people to write to municipal and provincial officials to take note of the issue and take action.

So far, around 400 people have signed onto a pre-written letter and sent it to officials, but she said the actual number is not yet known. She added that some people have also written physical letters, which the group has not been able to track.

“They really wanted to have that opportunity to put pen to paper and write their officials,” she said. “So we’re not 100% sure, but there’s certainly a large voice from the community, just within this last week.”

The group’s call to action specifically calls on officials to work together to resolve the issue.

“There are multiple different levels of decision-makers that have a piece of the work to be doing within Stoney Creek, and decisions that should be made on various different levels that can work towards finding a different solution to what’s happening,” Paydli said.

She added that the City of Coquitlam has reached out to the CodeBlue campaign to talk about work that has been done so far.

“It’s good to see that people are actioning things and that folks want the solution,” she said.

“The proof is in the pudding. … There’s still concrete being dumped into the water.”

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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