A chum salmon swims in Stoney Creek in October 2021. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Fish kill places Stoney Creek on most endangered urban streams list

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC has named Burnaby’s Stoney Creek one of the most endangered urban streams in BC, along with Little Campbell River (Tatalu) in Surrey.

By Srushti Gangdev | December 7, 2021 |5:00 am

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC has named Burnaby’s Stoney Creek one of the most endangered urban streams in BC, along with Little Campbell River (Tatalu) in Surrey.

The dubious honour comes in a report released over the weekend that says smaller streams in urban areas escaped a lot of the devastating flooding that saw water levels surging in waterways like the Fraser River.

But they had their own fair share of problems to contend with.

“These two streams are normally viewed as two of the Lower Mainland’s most productive streams. Yet events that transpired along them this past year highlighted major shortcomings in how we protect urban waterways,” said Mark Angelo, the rivers chair for the Outdoor Recreation Council.

As the Beacon reported earlier this year, Stoney Creek suffered a major fish kill event over the summer that likely wiped out not just the fish living in the stream but the food chain that they feed on, according to a local stream keeper—causing damage that set conservation work back by decades.

But Angelo said staffing shortages at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) delayed federal investigation efforts by 10 days, hampering officials’ ability to find evidence as to what caused the spill.

On top of that, Angelo said ECCC had no in-house testing ability to determine the fish’s cause of death.

Around the same time as the fish kill event, the City of Coquitlam did identify the source of a contamination event that caused remnants of cement to flow into Stoney Creek. A contractor who was doing geotechnical work was believed to have been responsible for that and their company was fined $500—a fine limit that’s set by the province.

“And in our view, it’s an amount that is just way too small to be a deterrent. We think fines should be much more significant. So these are things that can and should be changed.”

Another issue at hand is that of increasingly regular sewage spills along North Road. The spills flow into Stoney Creek from Coquitlam, often coming up during periods of significant rain.

As the Beacon previously reported, the issue has been ongoing for about ten years and also carries the possibility of spikes in E. coli levels in the stream.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC says the pollution is caused by the sewage line being overloaded, and failing to keep up with the needs of nearby developments.

“It really highlights the importance of ensuring that increased development is matched by the adequacy of our infrastructure. While there are sewage spills now, unless there are significant upgrades to the sewage system, then the problem with spills is going to become even more frequent, as more and more development unfolds within the city,” Angelo said.

He said in order to protect Stoney Creek and similar urban streams, cities and governments have to take a more precautionary approach to how development occurs around waterways and to hold polluters accountable.

Angelo lauded the efforts of community advocates like the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, who was on scene collecting water samples from the site of the spill earlier this year. But he says the committee was left “largely on their own” in its work of trying to restore the health of Stoney Creek and its fish stock—and he wishes government organizations were playing a bigger role in that.

“The bottom line from this report is to make the point that our local urban streams have immense values, they contribute greatly to the quality of life we enjoy,” Angelo said.

“Yet they also face considerable pressures. So in addition to doing all we can on the climate change front, we also have to deal with a number of these other issues.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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