Residents want to know their park is safe after sewage was found in a small creek in Sidney.
The Town has cordoned off a small area within Melville Park off Resthaven Drive and are investigating ways to clean it up.
People living next to Melville Creek told the municipality in early May they smelled sewage. On May 11, Town staff took samples and two days later, the results showed high levels of fecal coliforms — consistent with sewage contamination.
Tim Tanton, Sidney’s director of development services, engineering parks and works, says once they received the complaints, staff searched for the source of the sewage. The intermittent creek, he said, is fed by a variety of upstream sources and is surrounded by homes.
After using dye to determine if there were any cross-contamination issues between May 27 and June 8, Tanton said a duplex on Patricia Place was found to be the source of the problem.
Cross connections, Tanton explained, occur when sewage lines are mistakenly connected to storm water drainage lines. He said the home owner had been contacted and will be required to fix the problem. He added the Town will co-operate with them to make it happen.
Tanton added Island Health was made aware of the issue, stating they have told the Town they are willing to issue Health Act Orders to the duplex owner if the problem isn’t fixed in a timely manner.
In the meantime, a section of Melville Creek has been fenced off and signed. Resident Dale Hoover said while he’s happy the Town put up the fence, it took the urging of residents to get it done.
Hoover added he’s still concerned about contamination in the park and downstream from the site that’s cordoned off.
Tanton said once the source of the problem has been fixed, the Town plans on flushing the creek to help remove the contamination.
He added, however, that since the creek is open and its catchment area includes dog-walking areas, livestock and other impacts, making the waterway completely free of fecal coliforms is impossible.
Hoover said that might not be enough, especially if sewage has seeped into the soil.
Tanton presented Sidney council with three options at its June 13 meeting, to address the issue: maintaining the status quo following cleanup; eliminate the creek and install a pipe, or; restore the creek habitat.
“Some residents want the creek filled in,” Tanton said, noting in his report that could cost around $300,000.
Council asked staff to investigate the cost and impacts of the third option, restoring the creek habitat to a natural creek bed from where it enters Sidney to its ocean outfall.
Tanton said the creek is currently dry for a portion of the year. To help with water flows, he suggested tapping into an abandoned Town water well at Ardwell Avenue and Highway 17. That, he said, could be used as a source of year ‘round water flow.
The cost of this option, he said, is unknown “but could be significant.”