City of Chilliwack staffer Steve Clegg tests the slough water at the site near a greenhouse operation. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Chilliwack slough turns pink after greenhouse worker makes mistake with flower dye

Greenhouse owner says ‘no immediate danger’ from non-toxic substance released into waterway

It was a non-toxic flower dye from a local greenhouse that made a Chilliwack waterway turn pink last week.

Leo Quik, owner of Quik’s Farm, including the greenhouses on McSween Road, said it was a worker’s handling “mistake” that led to the incident.

Dark pink water could be seen dripping out of a large white pipe at the rear of the greenhouse site directly into the slough last week.

“The substance released into the waterway was completely non-toxic, and we confirmed that in discussions with the supplier of the product, which came from a reputable manufacturer,” said Quik.

READ MORE: Slough turns pink

The flower dye comes in concentrate form and is added to water. Considered an industry standard, the pigment product eventually breaks down in sunlight. It was being used last week to dye flowers destined for Easter celebrations.

“We have done all of our due diligence since being made aware of the situation,” Quik said, adding that they’ve hired an environmental consultant to guide them on possible remediation options. “We believe there is no immediate danger now to either the local wildlife or the environment.”

The whole situation came to light after the provincial Ministry of Environment was contacted last week by an alarmed resident, who noticed that a section of the Camp Slough had suddenly turned a curious shade of pink.

Ever since then Quik’s Farm officials have been working closely with all responding agencies, which have been testing and sampling the water, including MOE, as well as Environment Canada and City of Chilliwack. BC Conservation Officer Service also attended the site on Saturday.

The discoloured section of the Camp Slough, near the junction of Bell Road and McSween, has been contained, Quik said.

The environmental consultant, hired by the greenhouse owners, took immediate action at the site, closing off “egress culverts” leading out of the slough, and effectively containing the contamination.

Quik’s Farm, a Chilliwack farm company operating for 29 years, employs up to 70 people, and always puts an emphasis on environmental sustainability with best practices for growing and handling.

“We have set handling procedures, and unfortunately that is where the mistake was made,” Quik said, adding that a batch of the flower dye was sent down the “wrong” drain hole.

A deceased beaver found in the slough was headed for the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford for possible necropsy, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment.

Quik said at this point they feel confident that the animal’s demise was not caused by the pink water, and that tests will confirm this.

MOE staff received photos of the discoloured slough from a concerned resident on April 4, and attended on April 5 to assess the situation and take samples.

City of Chilliwack staff conducted testing and sampling on April 5. The water appeared to have “significant contamination” and samples were sent to a lab for further testing.

Test results are expected sometime this week.

“This will help determine next steps,” the MOE spokesperson added.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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City of Chilliwack staffer Steve Clegg testing coloured water samples coming from a greenhouse property. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

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