Matsqui Slough turned a rusty red colour following an iron oxide spill.

Matsqui Slough turned a rusty red colour following an iron oxide spill.

No major toxicity concerns from iron oxide spill

Business says it's taken steps to prevent future spills.

As Matsqui Slough returns to its normal colour, the company behind an iron oxide spill last week says it has taken steps to prevent any future incidents.

Last Tuesday, Matsqui Slough turned a rusty red colour, prompting concern from a Harris Road resident. The cause of the discolouration was revealed to have been an iron oxide spill at Abbotsford Concrete, which operates a facility on McCallum Road.

Abbotsford Concrete representative Bob Leach, told the News that “the spill was caused by a burst water source spraying water on to one of our bags of red dye.” The dye – composed of red iron oxide, a relatively common earthly compound – then made its way into a storm sewer on McCallum Road.

“In our 25-year history in Abbotsford this has never happened. Although we consider this a very isolated incident, we have taken measures to ensure it will not happen again.”

An environmental consultant has been hired by the company and water samples have been taken.

While details have not yet been received, the provincial environmental ministry says an early safety review “did not indicate any major toxicity concerns,” as iron oxide is a common component of the earth.

The water has since returned to its normal colour and the water is being monitored to ensure it meets Health Canada guidelines for drinking water.

The province is responsible for assessing and mitigating any environmental effects while enforcement issues are being handled by the federal environment ministry.

Mark Johnson, a spokesperson with the federal environment ministry, could say little about his department’s activity in regards to the slough.

“We’re at the information gathering point here,” he said. “From a law-enforcement perspective, it’s not our practice to divulge any information we collect prior to or during any investigation.”

Neither ministry could speak to what, if any, effect the incident could have on the slough’s ecosystem. Calls to Fisheries and Oceans Canada were not returned.