Sooke resident struggles to get government officials to investigate oil spill

Shahn Torontow says a small amount of oil accumulates in his tidal pond every few days, and when the tide lowers gets washed into Ayum Creek. (Bailey Moreton - Sooke News Mirror)Shahn Torontow says a small amount of oil accumulates in his tidal pond every few days, and when the tide lowers gets washed into Ayum Creek. (Bailey Moreton - Sooke News Mirror)
The mouth to Ayum Creek on the left, with Shahn Torontow tidal pond to the right of the grassy embankment. Torontow says when the tide is high the water rises above the grass patch and when the tide is low, the water gets sucked out of the pond, potentially making its way into the creek. (Bailey Moreoton - Sooke News Mirror)The mouth to Ayum Creek on the left, with Shahn Torontow tidal pond to the right of the grassy embankment. Torontow says when the tide is high the water rises above the grass patch and when the tide is low, the water gets sucked out of the pond, potentially making its way into the creek. (Bailey Moreoton - Sooke News Mirror)

A small fuel leak on his property has left Sooke resident Shahn Torontow frustrated that his concerns are falling on deaf ears.

Torontow has lived in his house near Ayum Creek for three years and has seen a wild range of marine life. The salmon run passes through Ayum Creek every year, and once he saw a seal swimming along the creek, looking for a meal.

But recently, Torontow has started noticing an oil slick develop in the tidal pond near his home. When the tide is low, oil starts to form a rainbow sheen on the water and when the tide rises, water from the tidal pond spills into the Ayum Creek, potentially contaminating fish habitat.

“It’s not a huge environmental disaster as a whole,” he said. “(But) it definitely would add up.”

Torontow said he’s been trying to get a government official to come and investigate with little success.

“In a roundabout way, I’ve probably talked to nine people this year, and not a single person has followed up with me,” he said.

But as Torontow found out, knowing who to call can be hard. His house is within the boundaries of the District of Sooke, but the creek is in a Capital Regional District-controlled park.

The CRD has an online portal for submitting issues. Residents can also submit concerns to the District of Sooke.

“We try to provide a response to residents within 72 hours, ideally noting the action taken,” said Christina Moog, a District of Sooke spokesperson in an email. “Cases involving multiple jurisdictions can cause delays. Delays can also be expected after weather events.”

There’s also the provincial Report Any Poachers and Pollution Line (RAPP), which is how to get a provincial conservation officer to investigate an issue. That line is supposed to act as a central point where concerns can be redirected, but Laura Stovel, senior public affairs officer for Environment and Climate Change Canada said incidents like this can fall under a number government departments depending on who is responsible for the body of water and other environmental factors, like if the water body is near a mine.

Torontow suspects some leftover waste from the Munn Lumber Mill, which used to operate nearby, may be to blame.

Local historian Elida Peers says the mill, which closed in 1956 after 15 years of operation, is unlikely to be the cause, because there were several cleanup operations to remove any environmental impacts.

Whatever the cause, Torontow says all he wants is for someone to come find what the cause of the spill is.

READ MORE: Munn’s Lumber ran for 15 years


@moreton_bailey
bailey.moreton@goldstreamgazette.com

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