Langley Township is working hard to clean up a “significant” sewage spill into a portion of West Creek, a fish-bearing stream, which occurred last Thursday.
According to Township director of public works Ronald Zwaag, a large sewage main broke in Gloucester at 272 Street, south of 56 Avenue, which sits right beside West Creek.
Ironically, a roadside sign marks this area of West Creek as protected, and there are storm water retention ponds to regulate storm water flow into West Creek. These retention ponds are where the effluent first entered West Creek. The Township found out about it quickly, and crews worked fast to shut down the flow of sewage so they could get at the broken main.
“We worked through the night and had the pipe fixed by the weekend,” said Zwaag. “But the clean up of the creek is complicated and ongoing.”
Both the Ministry of Environment and the Department of Fisheries are aware and in contact with the Township about the spill.
When sewage effluent spews into a waterway, it chokes the oxygen inside the water, killing every living thing that relies on that oxygen.
“The first thing we did was pump oxygen back into the creek,” said Terry Veer, manager of operations.
This particular area of West Creek had local species like trout. However, other areas of West Creek are salmon bearing. The spill area appears to be contained because a beaver dam has landlocked that particular section of waterway.
But the damage is done and now they are conducting tests to see what levels of coliform are left in the water.
“We have been pumping out sewage and replacing it with fresh water, so we are waiting for test results on that,” said Veer.
The mystery is why a 12-year-old pipe would break.
“The pipes should last 75 years,” said Veer.
A piping expert is being brought in by the Township to investigate the pipe to see where the failure is and to determine if this could happen to other sewage lines in Gloucester.
Lifelong County Line resident Cal Caplette is distraught and sick to his stomach about the sewage spill.
The effluent almost immediately killed all the trout and stickleback fish in the beaver pond below the Caplette family’s home. Dead trout floated to the top of the creek Thursday evening and by Friday morning had settled to the bottom.
Hundreds of dead trout and stickleback are visible on the creek bottom, and are slowly but surely being covered by solid particles. The pungent smell of sewage lingers in the water.
Caplette, whose family has lived here since 1949, said he has never seen anything like this before.
“The Township and Ministry of Environment say they are on top of it but I really don’t think there is anything they can do,” said Caplette, who has been in constant contact with the government agencies since Thursday.
“I guess I’ll see,” he added.
The Township has installed an aerator in Caplette’s pond to put oxygen into the water, but it’s too little, too late, for the fish that were there. The pond is dead.
He notes that the Township has pumped the tainted water out of the retention ponds, but rainfall on Friday night flushed more waste down West Creek.
Most of it was trapped in the pond created by a beaver dam on Caplette’s property.
“The irony is they recently trapped the beaver that saved their butts on this spill,” said Caplette.
— with files from Kurt Langmann, Black Press