Spills in Kanaka Creek have been happening regularly, and they impact the water at the Bell-Irving Hatchery. (Special to The News)

Spills into Maple Ridge creek killing hatchery salmon

Conservation group suspects dumping into Kanaka Creek in the early morning

Potentially toxic spills into a salmon bearing stream are a concern for staff at a Maple Ridge salmon hatchery.

Staff and volunteers at Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society (KEEPS) are frustrated by what they call “a potentially toxic substance” entering Kanaka Creek.

For five of the past six days, the rearing ponds at the Bell-Irving Hatchery have been turned whitish grey with an unknown substance, said Darin McLain, the hatchery manager.

These incidents have killed small numbers of coho fry being raised for release into Kanaka Creek and the Burnaby Lake system.

KEEPS director Simon Matthews speculates the spills appear to be intentional, occurring early in the morning before 7 a.m. and the creek is running clear within hours.

There have been recent reports on silt spilling into the North Alouette River with storm runoff from nearby subdivisions, but McLain said these recent spills appear to be chemical in nature, and have not followed rain events.

READ ALSO: North Alouette River clouded by silt spill

KEEPS tested the water pH, and found it has been changed to more alkaline from the spills, rising from 6.8 to 7.3.

“Obviously it’s a major concern,” said McLain. “It’s a significant load of something.”

It appears the source is generally within about half a kilometer of the Bell-Irving Hatchery, which is located on 256th Street.

Matthews noted many of Kanaka’s tributaries are under increased development pressure. The recent spills were not the first incidents, he said.

“The first was the beginning of March 2021 when an oil-based paint covered the rearing ponds with scum and was also found in some incubation equipment,” said Matthews. “The next notable incident was at the end of June when on several days the creek was a very turbid grey colour and soapy.

“These incidents have been reported to the city, the Provincial Ministry of the Environment, and the Department of Fisheries.”

Society president Michael Buckingham noted the hatchery produces some 300,000 to 350,000 coho and chum salmon fry every year. For them to survive, they need a steady flow of clean water through the holding troughs and ponds.

He speculates that paint has been tossed into the creek, and noted such toxic substances can be disposed off at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. The society is holding a household hazardous waste drop-off day this Saturday.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge to get its second household hazardous waste drop-off day

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News