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Polluted Sidney pond finds support from feds

Transport Canada finds money to create a Reay Creek Pond reclamation plan by the end of March.
Ian Bruce of Peninsula Streams took part in testing of contaminated sediment in Reay Creek Pond three years ago.

Planning for the clean up of pollution in Sidney’s Reay Creek is expected early this year after Transport Canada confirmed funding has been found.

The Victoria Airport Authority and the Residents of Reay Creek community group, told the News Review Wednesday that Transport Canada has allocated money this fiscal year to prepare preliminary remedial or risk management options for the Reay Creek pond — the main site of heavy metal contamination.

Tim Tanton, the Town of Sidney’s Director of Engineering and head of the Reay Creek Technical Working Group, says it’s good news that Transport Canada has the funding to do the planning work — and that it must be done before March 31, 2017. Tanton said the work involves two things: a historical use analysis and the creation of options for cleaning up the site.

While he would not say that this news means Transport Canada has assumed more responsibility for the pollution in the creek and pond, Tanton did say it’s a step forward.

“Transport Canada is coming to the table  and is helping get it done,” he said.

Late last year, Transport Canada officially declared the pond to be a Class 1 contaminated site, making it a priority for possible clean up efforts. It has been said generally that much, if not all, of the heavy metal contamination entered the creek and pond sediments during the years Transport Canada had responsibility for the airport site. Since the land was taken over by the Victoria Airport Authority in 1997, the VAA has conducted various projects to improve their environmental impact.

VAA Vice-President of Operations and Development James Bogusz said Transport Canada has retained the services of the SLR group (an environmental services company) to create a work plan and determine options for the pond and creek clean up.

Bogusz said the VAA’s role is to provide data on sediment, water flows and other information on Reay Creek that they have built up over the years. He said this planning work is a big step forward and credited Transport Canada’s Ian Chatwell for helping make it happen.

“The Airport is really pleased to see this is happening,” he continued. “It keeps the ball rolling and shows progress.”

Bill Collins, chair of the Residents of Reay Creek group, said this bodes well for actual clean up work in the near future.

“Essentially, this is work to create cost estimates and to develop an environmental site management strategy,” Collins said. “The residents will be watching very dilligently.”

Collins added that this news shows that regular people, if they put their minds to it, can help get good things done.

Tanton said Transport Canada is expected to return to the technical group with options on what to do with the pond contamination.

During past discussions, he said those could range from doing nothing and only monitoring the water quality, to removing all contaminants and refurbishing the creek bed, eliminating the pond.

Tanton said, however, those options are not yet on the table.

When they are, he said they will be part of a public consultation process to determine an actual direction.

(Updated to correct a name spelling)