Peninsula Streams has taken samples of the sediment in Reay Creek Pond in Sidney and plans to test it for heavy metals and other contaminants.
A small team of three people used a boat and plastic core sample tubes late last week to extract soil and its contents from the pond. What they hope to find, says Peninsula Streams executive director Ian Bruce, is contaminants — of varying levels — stemming from many years of industrial and commercial activity in the area around the Victoria airport.
The hope is that the sediment from the pond can be extracted and the pond ecosystem improved over time for area plants and wildlife. Currently, sediment in the pond has left it very shallow, but with a muddy bottom. The work would also improve the health of the creek downstream, Bruce added, where the Town of Sidney and other partners have done a lot of work in recent years restoring the waterway.
Bruce was joined by Streams volunteer Reg Kirkham, who lives next to the pond in the same neighbourhood, and Rob Macdonald, a retired Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists with extensive experience in sampling and testing sediment.
The core samples, Macdonald said, show different historical event impacts on the pond. Looking at them, the soil takes on different textures and densities in the sample tubes. Those levels, Macdonald explained, offer evidence of different events that washed into the pond — such as a section indicating heavy logging activity at one time.
Samples taken at intervals from the tubes were packaged and will be tested for contaminants, such as heavy metals. Macdonald said they want to see if materials commonly associated with airports — such as cadmium and chromium — show up in the sediment. The testing could take a couple of months to complete.
“If they are contaminated, I don’t want them in the pond,” said Bruce.
He added, however, there are environmental rules governing what can and cannot be removed, based on contamination levels and composition. Ideally, Bruce said, the sediment can be removed and reclaimed at a different site.
How they isolate and reclaim the soil depends, again, on the extent and type of contamination.
Peninsula Streams met with residents living nearby Reay Creek Pond back in July and had 25 people gather to learn about the reclamation project. The general consensus was to start the process with core sampling. The results of this testing could lead to excavation of the sediment from the pond or other options, including turning the pond into a creek. Bruce said the test results will be brought to a community meeting and the next steps put onto the table for discussion.
Peninsula Streams is working with the Victoria Airport Authority, Town of Sidney, Sidney Anglers Association, Friends of Reay Creek Park and the District of North Saanich on the project. They hope to be able to improve the local ecosystem and ensure the fish-bearing stream is a healthy home for the salmon that use the creek.