Sewer line mishap spills mud into Maple Ridge creek

Second incident in three months

Larry McMillan holds a sample of stream water from his property. It normally runs clear. He claims sewer work by 256th Street and 128th Avenue is damaging the surrounding tributaries. See story

Larry McMillan holds a sample of stream water from his property. It normally runs clear. He claims sewer work by 256th Street and 128th Avenue is damaging the surrounding tributaries. See story

A second blowout along the new sewer line to Fraser Regional Correctional Centre turned the water in a nearby creek coffee brown for a few days, and resident Larry McMillan is worried about the fate of the fish.

“If they had waited a month, they wouldn’t have had any trouble. It would have dried out. This time of year is ridiculous.”

McMillan lives on 256th Street, not far from where construction crews hit a groundwater source early last Friday, near 128th Avenue.

When that groundwater, either a stream or an aquifer, was released, the water flowed down the new pipeline, then blew out a manhole cover at the point where the line crossed Zirk Creek at 128th Avenue. That washed away an embankment near the creek and dumped mud and gravel into the water.

On Monday, the water was still dirty, but instead of brown, more of a clay colour. McMillan says it also got into Middle Creek, a tributary to Zirk, which flows into Kanaka.

McMillan has been living there for 30 years and says this is the time of year trout are spawning.

“It’s just been a disaster and nobody wants to pay attention to it.” He said he called District of Maple Ridge and got no response, while Environment Canada told him approval has been granted for work in the riparian area.

He’s documented as much as he could, taking photos of water and even collecting samples of the creek water when it was coffee brown.

It’s the second time such an incident happened, he pointed out.

In February, a mud blowout happened near the South Alouette River as construction crews were drilling horizontally across the river for the sewer line crossing.

However, little mud got into the river then.

The $11-million sewer line is being built from Fern Crescent to the prison on 256th Street to connect it to Metro Vancouver’s sewage system. The Alouette Correctional Centre for Women also will tap into the system to accommodate expansion of both prisons.

District spokesman Fred Armstrong pointed out the water was from an underground source and wasn’t polluted, nor treated drinking water.

“It’s not dissimilar to rainwater coming into the creek.”

At different times the water was running clear and silty.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Environment were all contacted and clean up done within a few hours, he added.

“Our understanding is the DFO [Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans] is satisfied with the work and it was done very quickly.”

A cap has also been installed at the end of the line to prevent further incidents.

The sewer line project required moving construction equipment along the horse trail that followed the 128th Avenue alignment. However, because of boggy conditions, a gravel bed had to be laid. When the work is done, the trail will be restored and become more stable thanks to the gravel that will be left in place.

The sewer line has been designed to serve the two prisons and the industrial area on north 256th Street.

Concerns raised last fall by the Alouette Management Society that sewer line capacity was being increased to allow for future subdivisions, was allayed by district staff, said ARMS spokesman Geoff Clayton.