Health warning issued after Saanich Inlet sewage spill

First Nations Health Authority continues water testing after 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of sewage spills over Labour Day long weekend.

Both Island Health and the First Nations Health Authority issued public waterfront advisories following the release of raw human sewage into the Saanich Inlet over the Labour Day long weekend.

Water quality testing continues this week following the release of raw human sewage into Coles Bay near North Saanich over the Labour Day long weekend.

The failure of a containment system on the Paquachin First Nation saw an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of sewage spill into the Bay, part of the Saanich Inlet on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula.

Gethsemane Luttrell, District Manager of Environmental Public Health for the First Nations Health Authority, says the sewage drained into the ocean possibly over a couple days that weekend before it was reported to the health authority.

“Due to the risks of exposure, the Pauquachin and the Health Authority issued a waterfront advisory,” Luttrell said.

Since the spill was discovered, she said the Authority has been conducting tests of the water in Coles Bay, which is adjacent to a Capital Regional District park.

“We collected water samples Sept. 6, 7, 8 and 12,” she continued. “Our analysis showed the water was not up to standards set out under the Guildelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality.”

The public advisory remains in place, asking users of the park and the shoreline — including pets — to avoid contact with the water until further notice. Luttrell said the Health Authority will continue to take water samples until the contamination has been flushed from the area.

She added the cause of the spill is not known. Sewage is, she said, no longer leaking from the Pauquachin’s system.

The neighbouring District of North Saanich was informed of the spill, said Curt Kingsley, acting chief administrative officer. He said they were notified by the Health Authority and the Capital Regional District. A representative of Island Health said the matter falls to their First Nations counterparts, however they put up a beach advisory of their own to help inform the public.