Stoney Creek water quality now monitored by the minute, but preventing spills may still be a problem

They’ll know when the creek has been fouled. However, finding out who committed that foul may remain a problem.

Following recent spills, Coquitlam and Burnaby are working with water monitoring company Flowlink to provide minute-by-minute snapshots of water quality in Stoney Creek.

Installed Thursday, the monitor is slated to assess the pH, turbidity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity in the creek, sending out notifications via a cloud-based platform.

The monitor’s location was strategically chosen to detect most spills as soon as they enter the creek, according to Flowlink founder and CEO Elena Ranyuk.

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“That can help to investigate and pinpoint the contamination but it’s not going to prevent pollution,” she said. “Unfortunately, it will only indicate that it’s coming from upstream.”

The most recent spills

The spate of cloudy water in Stoney Creek between Jan 27 and Feb. 1 was caused by two spills at separate sites, according to Coquitlam’s manager of environment Caresse Selk.

The city received numerous reports of cloudy water in Stoney and Harmony creeks between Jan 27 and Feb. 1, according to Coquitlam’s manager of environment Caresse Selk.

In one case, Coquitlam staff traced the spill to sanitary upgrade work where trench water was pumped into a manhole leading to Harmony Creek.

Following the issuance of a stop work order, no further work is permitted on site, “until the contractor implements measures for retaining and infiltrating the discharge onsite,” Selk wrote in an email to the Dispatch.

The other spill was caused by a water treatment system discharging turbid water from a development site, according to Selk.

“We immediately had them shut down their discharge system and advised that their system must be serviced immediately,” Selk wrote.

By Wednesday the water was discharging clear, Selk said.

In both cases, the city is issuing a $500 fine.

photo supplied George Kovacic

An ounce of prevention

Both recent spills could have been prevented or at least mitigated, according to Ranyuk.

“In those cases we would address it with systems that would be installed on site,” she said.

Flowlink has monitored construction sites in Burnaby and Port Moody to keep contaminants from seeping into waterways, often by stopping water from being discharged when pollution is detected.

“Construction spills are very easy to prevent,” Ranyuk said. “It’s just not a requirement for all sites. I am not sure why.”

Sewage challenge

Stoney Creek has been the site of repeated sewage spills stemming from issues with Metro Vancouver sewer trunk capacity. While Flowlink is researching technologies that could provide real-time indicators of a sewage spill, that work is still in “very early stages,” according to Ranyuk.

We are also in discussions with the City of Burnaby about sewage detection in the creek and are looking into some technologies that may prove to be a useful real-time indicator of bacterial contamination. This is still in very early stages of discussion.

“Sewage is much harder to prevent,” she said.

In addition to real-time monitoring, signs are also being put up to allow residents to call either Burnaby or Coquitlam to report spills. Spills in Coquitlam can be reported 24 hours a day at 604-927-3500 or by emailing [email protected]

Streamkeeper discouraged

The Dispatch was alerted to the spills by streamkeeper George Kovacic, who has documented numerous construction and sewage spills to the creek.

Kovacic and his son Luka have been monitoring the health of the creek, a job that’s becoming increasingly discouraging, according to Kovacic.

“Luka and I are questioning why we should bother reporting these dumps,” Kovacic wrote. “We waste a lot of time taking photos, making calls and sending emails but absolutely nothing changes.”

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