Soil, water being tested after spill at Victoria airport

Viking Air investigating spill of waste water into Reay Creek wetland at Victoria airport.

A spill of waste water into a wetland along Reay Creek on Victoria airport property is still being cleaned up this week.

Early on March 10, rinse water from Viking Air’s aircraft parts plating operation spilled from a waste water storage tank into thier secondary holding tank. Todd Sjerven, Viking Air’s Manager of Occupational Health and Safety and Facilities says  a valve in that tank was left partially open and 1,600 litres of water spilled.

Sjerven confirmed the waste water contained chromium, used to protect aircraft parts. It’s also one of the heavy metals detected in testing done downstream in the Reay Creek Pond — subject of a Town of Sidney  study on cleanup options.

Sjerven said the spill seems to have been contained on airport land, in the man-made wetland and containment area. Testing has not indicated the contaminants made it downstream.

James Bogusz, Vice-President of Operations for the Victoria Airport Authority, said that area is controlled by two valves that can be closed off to stop creek water from getting in, or water from getting out.

“We are able to shut those valves off to determine pollutant levels,” he said. “Viking Air did get onto cleaning up the drain they spilled into that day.”

Sjerven said Viking Air contacted VAA immedately, which sent their airport’s fire department. He added the company also called in an environmental services company and vacuum truck. They also notified the Capital Regional District.

The CRD, said Sjerven, regulates the company’s treatment and release of waste water. After on-site treatment, he said, the water is tested before being discharged into the CRD’s sewer system.

Once the spill was detected, Sjerven said the company hired a contractor to pump out water from the wetland — an estimated 300,000 litres between last week and Sunday.

“We’ve confirmed that nothing got into Reay Creek itself,” he said.

Testing Sunday afternoon, he said, passed CRD, provincial and federal standards for fresh water. Testing continues this week, Sjerven said, to see if any heavy metals got into the soil sediments of the area.

It’s heavy metals in the sediments of the pond downstream in a residential area that is the subject of concern in Sidney, which has set up a working group to plan for its clean up. Sjerven said he’s aware of that issue, noting this spill was unfortunate timing, considering the recent news about the pond.

VAA had remediated a portion of Reay Creek on its property, removing contaminated soil and fixing the stream bed. Bogusz said they take pride in that work and Viking Air’s spill response was good.

“These types of spills don’t happen very often,” he said.

Sjerven said Viking Air is investigating the cause of the spill. That will include a review of safety and work procedures. He added Viking Air has not been fined by any regulatory agency for the spill at this time.