Heavy metals confirmed in Sidney’s Reay Creek Pond

Town of Sidney initiates plan to investigate clean up options.

Ian Bruce of Peninsula Streams watches as samples of sediment from Reay Creek Pond are collected for testing. Peninsula Streams started the analysis back in 2013.

Testing in 2013 that revealed the presence of heavy metals in the sediment of Reay Creek Pond in Sidney has been confirmed by a second study, prompting action from the municipality.

An environmental consultant has found high levels of cadmium, zinc, lead and chromium in the pond sediment, says Tim Tanton, Sidney’s Director of Engineering, Parks and Works. Tanton said the consultant’s final report is expected soon, but the metal contaminants have been confirmed. It mirrors testing started in 2013 by the Peninsula Streams Society. Preliminary results at that time indicated heavy metals were present, but their final report was only given to the municipality recently, Tanton said. That prompted the Town to hire their own consultant to test the soil over this past January and February.

While the levels of those heavy metals would have the pond considered a concern under B.C.’s contaminated sites legislation, Tanton said there’s no danger to the public. The contaminants, he continued, are buried in the sediment.

They have, however, moved downstream. Tanton said the Town has not had the water itself tested. He did note that the Capital Regional District has been monitoring the Reay Creek outfall on the east side of Lochside Drive for approximately a decade. The same metals, he said, have been found there.

The municipality has allocated $40,000 in its 2015 budget to study the problem and gather stakeholders to discuss a plan to fix it. Tanton said those include the Town of Sidney, District of North Saanich, Victoria Airport Authority, Transport Canada, Peninsula Streams and nearby residents. The creek flows through the airport property and the municipality has stated in a media release that the contaminants have “clearly been discharged into the pond from upstream lands.”

The Victoria Airport Authority studied the upstream reaches of the creek in 2005, which found the soil along the creek was contaminated. VAA, as outlined in their 2011 environmental report and 2014 master plan, then began a restoration project with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to reduce the levels of heavy metals. That work corresponded with a Sidney Anglers effort to restore fish habitat to the creek.

Sediment in the pond, continued Tanton, has accumulated to the point where it’s only around two feet deep, where once it was six to eight feet deep in places. That not only harms the environment for fish, but leads to downstream flow issues, like erosion and flooding in periods of high water runoff.

“We would like to dredge the pond to prevent that,” Tanton said, adding that is only one option to be considered by the stakeholders’ group this year. Actual work, he noted, might not occur until 2016.

The pond itself was created by a dam whose origins are, at best, murky. Tanton said the group could consider the need for such a dam — or even a pond — in its review of options.

“One thing that is clear, is that we only want to do this once.”

Ian Bruce, executive co-ordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, says the contamination in the sediment that they found in their testing, “is of concern.”

“I am pleased that the Town of Sidney is taking some action on the situation at Reay Creek,” he stated in a media release sent to the News Review Wednesday.

“We have been working on this project for three years but only with outside money and talented volunteers. We presented our data on the pond sediments at a multiple stakeholders meeting on February 20 … and it was agreed amongst the participants that a roundtable forum was needed to be held to address multiple watershed issues such as stormwater volume, as well as metals in Reay Creek Pond.”

Bruce added the Town can have its own stakeholder process for the Pond issues but a larger forum is needed because of the multi-jurisdictional composition of the watershed.

Bill Collins, spokesperson for the recently formed stewardship group Residents of Reay Creek, said he believes immediate engagement of residents in the process is required.

“We know that solutions to the pond problems will involve changing the park area nearby,” Collins said. “We want to be part of developing that vision so that 20 years from now the neighbourhood is well-served.”

Tanton added the Town will be posting signs, indicating the planning work ahead. More information on the project and environmental reports will be posted to sidney.ca as it becomes available.