A group of neighbours who live near Victoria International Airport rallied today, calling on the federal government to deal with a legacy of contamination in a local waterway.
Reay Creek runs through the airport land. Testing has shown its water and sediments are laced with toxic heavy metals from decades past. And people living nearby say its time for clean up to happen.
At a rally today, neighbours called on the federal government to take action.
“ur voices will be heard not only in the local community but as far as they need to be heard to get this problem solved,” said Reay Creek Residents spokesperson Bill Collins.
The salmon bearing stream runs across the Saanich Peninsula, and through the Victoria International Airport grounds.
Reay Creek’s history of heavy metal contamination dates to the airport’s wartime founding as a military base, through industrial operations in the 1960s.
“In aircraft its very important that the components are corrosion free, and the way you make that happen is through plating them with cadmium and chromium,” said Collins. “So cadmium or chromium laced water that got dumped on the other side of the airport and it just went down the storm drain in the 60s
CRD testing starting in 1998 first showed that decades later, those carcinogenic metals and other contaminants are still present. Sampling since shows its mostly concentrated in sediments in an artifical pond east of the airport grounds. While the metals of concern are in the sediments, not the water, neighbours are still concerned about the presence of carcinogens.
“They have grandkids, the grandkids could be out playing in the backyard and unknowingly picking up cadmium laced sediments,” said Collins.
Last fall the neighbours, the Town of Sidney, and the Victoria International Airport Authority created a working group to look at options. While the contamination pre-dates the VIAA’s establishment, the airport authority has paid for regular monitoring in the creek.
The focus now is forcing the federal government to deal with the problem. Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May delivered a letter from the town to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and calls the response encouraging.
Ottawa has promised to assess Reay Creek and the pond for inclusion on the federal contaminated sites list as soon as next month.
“Nothing goes very fast, but right now we’ve got the federal government’s attention transport canada is assessing Reay Creek, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure they address it urgently,” said May.