Black water concerns local river advocates

Robert Jimmie Jr. is frustrated by the ongoing presence of an oily spill recently near his grandfather’s fishing spot.

A substance suspected of being oil and diesel flows into a small stream that empties into the Fraser River. River advocates want the mess cleaned up.

Robert Jimmie Jr. is frustrated by the ongoing presence of an oily spill recently near his grandfather’s fishing spot.

It was spotted in a ditch and in a field behind the log sort in Cattermole Business Estates on Cannor Road.

“I just love our land so much and hate to see it go down this way so soon,” he said.

Jimmie, a local Sto:lo from Squiala First Nation, was writing recently about the issue on his Facebook page, trying to engage political leaders and individuals alike about the potential source of Fraser River pollution.

He told The Progress that he’s now extremely concerned about the impacts the spill might be having on salmon and other wildlife in the area if it flows into the river.

A spilled black substance can be seen seeping into the rocks on the river bank, and provincial Environment Ministry officials confirmed they were made aware of it last month.

There may have been efforts to dilute it with sand and peat moss at the site, but the oily mess needs to be thoroughly removed. After tests, Jimmie said he believes the black substance is a mix of diesel and oil that won’t be removed by increased water flows.

“I think it’s mechanical waste from oil changes, but if they’re going to do an oil change, at least use a bucket,” he said.

There is a black cloth-like barrier placed near the oil spill to stop it from leaking into the river, but it’s a makeshift effort, Jimmie said.

“I’m now waiting for our leaders to get involved. We’re going to talk about this since it can affect not only our fishing rights but those of sport fishers as well as other river users,” he said.

The spill in question is under investigation, confirmed a ministry official.

“While on routine patrol January 22, 2014, a Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer observed black water in the ditch and field directly behind the Southview Log Sort on Cannor Road,” MOE spokesman David Karn wrote in an emailed response.

MOE is working with other agencies, including Environment Canada, to determine what is to be done, he added.

“The responsible party may be required to retain a qualified environmental consultant to assess potential impacts, determine corrective actions and identify what site remediation is necessary,” he wrote in an official response.

“The Province subscribes to the polluter pay principle, which means the spiller must cover the costs associated with clean up.”

It can’t happen soon enough, according to Jimmie.

“Ducks swim in that pond. There are eagles and geese. It’s bird habitat nearby. I fish all year round to feed my people,” said Jimmie.

Jimmie said he is now scared to eat the salmon that will have to swim up through the spill.

“This has to be cleaned up.”