WATCH: A new study funded in part by Fisheries and Oceans Canada sampled B.C.’s coastal waters for contaminants and Victoria’s harbour received the lowest ranking. April Lawrence reports.
It's one of the most picturesque views in the province but Victoria's Inner Harbour has a new ranking it won't be so proud of.
A new three-year Ocean Wise study called Pollution Tracker, funded in part by the federal government, ranks it as the most polluted ocean waterway in the province. Getting scores of just 1 to 5 on a scale that goes up to 51.
"The area is shallow it's a vulnerable receiving environment, and as a result, any pollutants that enter into the Victoria harbour are less likely to be buried in the sediments," said Coastal Ocean Research Institute Executive Director Dr. Peter Ross.
Ross said there are a variety of chemicals that have leached into the harbour area — some from the heavy industry that called the harbour home decades ago and, according to local environmentalists, old leaky infrastructure still in place today.
"We slash industry and we are mad at industry and we got rid of industry so now we have good industry but we've got our municipalities doing the exact same thing industry was doing, doesn't make sense to me," said Veins of Life Watershed Society founder John Roe.
Samples found more than a dozen chemicals in four places in the harbour, including lead, mercury, and high levels of PCB's — a chemical that poses a particular risk to the endangered resident killer whale population.
"If we have salmon transiting those areas and feeding off the food web that could be a way salmon are getting bumped up and presenting a problem for transient killer whales," said Ross.
And their favourite food, chinook, are known to frequent harbour waters.
"I can take you out here in July and show you the chinook our bobbing in here," said Roe.
The study, which sampled waters from all along British Columbia's coast, will be used to help all levels of government start to address the problem.
"Once we have that knowledge that's when we can start designing the appropriate way to solve the problem, whether it's through regulation, best practices or source control," said Ross.
Contaminants were found in all 55 samples taken in the study over the last three years, with Prince Rupert and some areas of Vancouver's Burrard Inlet also scoring fairly low.
In some areas, pharmaceuticals and current use pesticides were discovered.