Diesel spill a concern for stream stewards
By Paul Andrew
A motor vehicle accident at Highway 99 and the entrance to The Bayshores subdivision March 2 has members of Whistler’s Stream Stewardship program concerned about a creek’s ability to become a vital spawning area for rainbow trout.
The accident dumped up to 200 litres of diesel fuel on the highway, which soaked into snowbanks. Eventually the fuel worked its way into a pond and into Write Off Creek, which feeds into Alpha Lake.
"We found out last summer there is a healthy rainbow trout population in there, and we didn’t think there was any," said Heather Beresford, stream stewardship supervisor for the municipality. "We called it Write Off Creek because of all the work that’s been done in that area. It was an accident but it couldn’t have happened in a worse area."
The accident involved a Konings Wholesale tractor trailer unit and a dump truck fitted with a snow plow. Initial reports suggested only about 40 litres of diesel spilled from the delivery truck’s ruptured fuel tank.
Beresford, who is stationed at the Public Works yard on Nesters Road, said it appeared as though everything that could have been done to soak up the diesel was done by both the Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks’ emergency response office, and by CEDA, which was hired by Konings to clean up the material that soaked the diesel off the surface of the pond. The diesel was also contained by foam booms, similar to those used in oil spills. The diesel is lighter than water and does not penetrate the surface.
"And they took away the contaminated snow drift, which soaked up about 10 litres," Beresford added.
Phil Chew, a condominium owner at Alpha Lake Village and a co-ordinator with the stream stewardship group, said that a few days before the accident happened he had presented a plan to revitalize the stream below the pond. Chew’s presentation, to scientists who had returned to Whistler with a final report after studying Whistler’s watersheds last summer, took place in council chambers Feb. 29.
"It could easily be a spawning area," Chew said. "It’s one of the only creeks that runs into Alpha Lake. The fire department did all they could by getting everyone out here right away, I know that and I appreciate it. But this spawning area is scarred. Look, there’s no organic diversions in there," he said as he pointed at the tiny creek.
"I found out last summer, there was about 15 trout in the pond. So we should revitalize the stream because the pond feeds into it. Then maybe the trout will begin spawning here again. I suppose what will happen is the micro organisms that live in here will be affected. It will set back the restoration of the creek considerably."
Telephone messages left with Ministry of Environment last week and again this week were not returned, but Norm Dedeluk, chief of the Whistler Fire Department, said they considered this to be a small incident.