An oil leak from Songhees Nation into the Gorge Waterway has been contained, but residents in the area are concerned about a lingering foul smell.
Brent Palmer, who lives in a trailer park on the First Nation, said he first noticed the smell on Wednesday.
“I was out here shovelling snow and I smelled it,” Palmer explained. “I even walked down here and checked the ditch, but I couldn’t see anything and really couldn’t tell where it was coming from.”
Palmer’s partner Laurie Gordon said the smell started to dissipate with the snowfall, but when it melted on Friday, the smell got worse.
She said it was giving her headaches and making her feel sick.
“Just the smell of diesel. Just nauseating, just really strong smell,” Gordon said.
The couple said that is when their neighbour found the source of the smell: oil leaking from a storm drain into the ditch.
“You could see it drooping out, coming on top of the water,” Palmer explained.
Songhees Nation was called in to investigate the leak.
Kirk Stinchcombe, director of land and environment for the Nation, told CHEK News it’s believed the leak started after a heating oil tank at one of the homes on the lot was refilled on Wednesday.
“It was a small leak with a bit of velocity, so the leak essentially was draining directly to the stormwater system and then into the drainage ditch,” Stinchcombe said.
He said a big concern with this oil leak is the water from the ditch gets fed into Esquimalt’s sort water system, which then gets fed into the Gorge Waterway.
On Friday, the Township of Esquimalt said the substance was detected that evening.
It said booms had been set up in the area to contain the substance and that spill response crews had been called in.
The township added that it was working with the District of Saanich and Songhees First Nation on response and information-sharing.
“We’ve deployed quite a few different containment bins along the ditch, and at this point, we have very good containment,” Stinchcombe said. “At this point, we believe very little oil is making its way out into the Gorge, which is what we are very concerned about.”
The Ministry of Environment was also called in and told CHEK News in a statement, “The spiller has retained qualified professionals to further the clean up and environmental recovery. The province will continue to support and monitor spill response and recovery actions.”
The Nation said clean-up efforts have been successful, adding the leak is fully contained, and the oil tank has been drained.
“So there’s no more oil will be going into the environment now,” Stinchcombe added.
The Songhees Nation will continue to monitor the area throughout the week.
Palmer and Gordon hope this means the foul smell will disappear soon.