Residents who live along the North Alouette River are upset that silt from a new subdivision spilled into the river. (Special to The News)

Residents who live along the North Alouette River are upset that silt from a new subdivision spilled into the river. (Special to The News)

North Alouette River clouded by silt spill

Environmental group, neighbours critical of developer and city hall

Maple Ridge residents who live along the North Alouette river are browned off over a large silt spill into the waterway during Tuesday’s rainfall.

The normally clear stream was turned to chocolate milk, as soil from a Silver Valley subdivision near 232nd Street entered the salmon-bearing stream from a drainage pipe.

The Alouette River Management Society (ARMS) has taken samples to determine whether any chemical pollutants were part of the spill, but say the silt itself is damaging enough to eggs and spawning salmon.

Bruce Hobbs lives along the river near the bridge on 232nd Street, has now reported three such spills since 2018, and said the past week’s was the worst.

“The city doesn’t really seem to care,” he accuses. “Nothing has been done.”

He said the brown stain stretched from 232nd Street all the way to at least 224th, and possibly well beyond.

“Usually this river is pristine – beautiful clear water,” he said, having lived beside it for some 30 years.

“We used to have all kinds of salmon come up here. Now there’s hardly any.”

He said the city allows developers and the consultants they hire to effectively police themselves, and even obvious problems are not being fixed.

“The foxes are in charge of the hen house,” accused Hobbs.

“Somebody should be fired for this.”

Coming at a time when the news is full of concern for the environment, as global warming causes floods and wildfires, the spill makes environmental degradation hit home.

“What’s the price for destroying a salmon bearing river?” he asked. “We live in a world that’s going to hell in a handbasket.”

He has called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and an officer was going to investigate on Friday.

Another riverside resident, Barry Lyster, said the whole neighbourhood is just as upset.

“People in the Alouette Valley are very concerned about this,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration.”

He said they worry irreparable harm has been done, and said allowing drainage into the salmon spawning river is irresponsible by the city. Lyster said city hall allows developers to do the “bare minimum” to protect the environment.

“It just breaks our hearts,” he added. “Our main concern is the environment, and this river.”

ARMS president Ken Stewart said the silt can kill fish eggs, delay spawning salmon, and makes the river a poor habitat.

He said the failure of a retention pond for the hillside subdivision should not be acceptable.

“Engineers are supposed to be designing these things,” groused Stewart. “This is a very negative thing for the river.

“It’s another in a million cuts to the fish.”

He said ARMS will be bringing up the issue with the city, and questioned whether the consistent turnover of staff at city hall has blunted its sharpness.

“City hall has not been as effective environmentally as they have been over the years.”

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge council approves controversial riverfront subdivision

Chuck Goddard, director of planning, said the city deployed environmental staff rapidly to determine both the cause of the sediment, and steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

“Our investigation found deficiencies at a development site where the storm water containment system was not sufficient to deal with a rainfall event after a long period of drought,” he said.

The city focused on ensuring the water containment system can stop further sediment flowing into the river, and Goddard said the contractor will be held responsible for the incident.

“Our environmental inspectors are visiting the site on a regular basis to ensure that there are no further incidents,” said Goddard.

“The city has very high standards in place to ensure that there is no impacts to our water systems during the construction of new homes and into the future as they are occupied, and we enforce these regulations proactively and on a complaint basis. We thank the members of the community for reporting this incident promptly.

“The city’s environmental standards reflect the value and significance of watercourses in our community for wildlife and the residents that live in our community. Be take any breach of these standards seriously.”

READ ALSO: Volunteers champion our streams


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