‘Might be an algae bloom’: Esquimalt official of polluted water that cancelled Gorge Swim Fest

'Might be an algae bloom': Esquimalt official of polluted water that cancelled Gorge Swim Fest

WATCH: Officials are investigating after a mysterious substance was found in the Gorge Creek yesterday, leading to the cancellation of the Gorge Swim Fest. Isabelle Raghem reports. 

Hundreds of swimmers dip into the waterway between Esquimalt and Victoria every summer to celebrate an event proudly showcasing how clean the water is. That event is the Gorge Swim Fest.

The event scheduled for Sunday was cancelled late Saturday night.

“I got alerted that there appeared to be a sewage spill in the waterway,” said organizer Jack Meredith with the Gorge Swim Fest Society.

While confident with the decision to cancel the event, Meredith says it wasn’t an easy choice to make.

“So much work has gone into this,” he said Sunday morning, “It’s a party. Who wants to cancel a party at the eleventh hour?”

It’s a disappointment for fans of the event.

“We’re really sad. We made a special event to be here,” said one couple who has been coming to the festival for the last five year.

And a huge letdown for a group that came from the mainland for the festival.

“It’s quite torture right now actually. My feet are burning, I’m sweating, it would be nice to go for the dip.”

The polluted area was located at Gorge Creek in the area of Kinsman Park on Saturday afternoon. Containment booms were placed to stop the substance to spread.

“Other than the smell we don’t have the indicators that it’s a sewage break,” said Esquimalt Public Works Director Jeff Miller.

Crews from public works have been working with Island health officials to conduct tests to determine what caused the change in the water. Officials say the results likely won’t become available until Monday.

“It has a milky appearance which is somewhat more indicating to us that this might be an algae bloom or something of that effect,” said Miller Sunday, “But without the testing, we can’t say for sure.”

Lovers of the Gorge say this is proof that keeping the waterway clean is an ongoing effort.

“I hate to take advantage of this situation but this is what we’re trying to avoid,” said Meredith, “this reinforces our message that we have to be careful.”

Swim Fest organizers say once tests are complete and the water is back to standards, they’re hoping to reschedule the festival to later this summer.

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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