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Oil spill in Colquitz Creek kills Salmon, pollutes Saanich waterway

Nov 26 2011

A thousand litres of home-heating oil has spilled from an underground tank and into Colquitz Creek, killing migrating salmon and polluting part of the Saanich waterway.

The spill started gradually but quickly escalated, with the bulk of the oil seeping into the creek on Friday.

People walking in Colquitz Park near Columbine Way and Camas Court smelled the fuel near the creek and contacted authorities, said Adriane Pollard, environmental services manager for Saanich.

The spill is under investigation by Saanich public works crews and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Booms have been set up to contain the spill, said Pollard.

While no dead fish have been found at the scene, some carcasses have turned up downstream, she said.

Buried oil tanks have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. Leaks can occur due to corrosion, rust and piping connections.

Residential heating oil storage tanks have been used in Canada for more than 60 years, said a B.C. government fact sheet. Many of these tanks are now abandoned as homeowners move to natural gas, propane and electricity to heat their homes.

Underground storage tanks pose risks of contamination to soil and groundwater. They can also cause fires and explosions.

Under the current laws, the current and previous owners of the home as well as the company that transported the fuel can be tagged with costs relating to a spill.

Unused underground oil storage tanks should be properly decommissioned by a qualified contractor, said the fact sheet.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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