Multiple agencies are investigating after a mysterious sheen started appearing on Lynn Creek.
Henry Boudin noticed the spill on his daily walk with his dogs in Harbourview Park more than a month ago. He shot video clips that show the iridescent substance coming from a drainpipe that originates under Western Stevedoring’s Lynnterm facility, about 35 metres up from the mouth of the creek.
“(It’s all) going right into the harbour from there. There’s lots and lots of sea life all over the place there. We have sea lions and seals, and mallard ducks and eagles and plant life. It’s an ecological wonderful place to be,” he said. “And it’s carried by currents everywhere.”
Boudin raised the issue with District of North Vancouver environmental staff who told them they had been aware of the issue for at least a month. Boudin said he was dismayed by the district’s apparent lack of urgency about the spill, given the risk it poses.
“They said that they will take care of it, but … in the time that I’ve walked there between now and then, I’ve seen it at least four other times,” he said.
The pipe from which the substance appears to be coming is submerged at high tide. The sheen is visible only at low tide.
Western Stevedoring is aware of the spill and has been taking “proactive and preventative measures” to mitigate the damage, although the exact source or even the nature of the substance aren’t known, according to the company.
“Environmental experts together with Western Stevedoring are working to identify and eliminate the source of the sheen. Responses include cleaning out storm drains, monitoring and testing, and out of an abundance of caution, installing preventative catch basin inserts. Initial laboratory test results are inconclusive as to what is causing or composes the sheen. Further testing is underway,” a statement from the company read. “Western Stevedoring is working closely with regulatory agencies including the BC Environmental Emergency Program and the District of North Vancouver, among others. Monitoring of the site is ongoing and further updates will be provided as available.”
Without those details, the North Shore Streamkeepers Society couldn’t comment on the specifics of the spill. But the group, which carries out habitat restoration projects on North Vancouver’s fish-bearing streams, says old stormwater systems and the contaminants they carry are a threat to salmonids everywhere.
“It is important for all stormwater systems to be designed to ensure the quantity and quality of water entering our streams mimics nature. Legacy stormwater systems, like many of those discharging into Lynn Creek, need to be monitored and upgraded to mitigate the pollution they allow into our salmon streams,” the society's Glen Parker said in an email. “This intermittent sheen being reported helps to motivate action, and we appreciate the public’s concern. This concern reinforces to regulators and industry the importance of the natural environment and the need for better management of stormwater.”
The District of North Vancouver did not respond to numerous requests for an interview but staff did provide a statement confirming they are aware of the spill and Western Stevedoring’s efforts to deal with it.
“We have investigated and we continue to be in close communication with them regarding their response and mitigation work. Western Stevedoring is making a concerted effort to determine the source of the pollution and to mitigate its impact on the natural environment,” said Erika Nassichuk, environmental protection officer. “It’s worth noting that it doesn’t take a lot of a substance to create a rainbow sheen. While the presence of this kind of sheen is disconcerting to those that see it, it is not necessarily indicative of the quantity of product released.”