Officials from the Ministry of the Environment are investigating an incident that resulted in treated wood being dumped into the Similkameen River at the White Bridge.
Argo Road Maintenance crews are resurfacing the bridge, and were letting the old wood fall into the river, according to Keremeos resident Bill Duff, who first spotted the problem on July 29.
“My wife and I do quite a bit of walking along that dike. We noticed all these great big blocks of old wood from them working on that bridge. What they were doing was just cutting it off and letting it fall into the river,” said Duff.
“It’s pressure-treated and that stuff kills fish. They’ve been working on the thing since July 8, so who knows how long they’ve been dropping wood in the water.”
Duff filed a complaint with the conservation service, which attended the scene. Shortly after, Argo crews started cleaning up, according to Duff.
“Since then, they have done a bit of cleanup on the river, but there is still a ton of it along the shoreline all the way up,” said Duff, who admitted the crew did quite a bit of work cleaning up the first gravel bar below the bridge.
“That was covered. We counted some 30-odd pieces of lumber, and it’s not just lumber, it’s got huge big spikes sticking out of it and the big timber bolts, with washers and everything holding the wood together,” said Duff.
“Some of the pieces are four to five feet in length and they are all eight by eight or 10 by 10 timbers.”
Conservation officer Bob Hamilton said he is still investigating the incident, but said there is cause for concern about the wood that was dropped into the river
“I’m not a technician for waste management, but depending on what sort of treated wood it is, it’s definitely toxic,” said Hamilton.
“It’s not something that can be introduced to fish-bearing streams. The dilution effect there is pretty major, but still, it is a toxic product.”
Hamilton said he hasn’t decided what charges will be required yet.
“The question is, is this a small quantity, a large quantity, is it something through negligence or is it accidental?” said Hamilton.
“Given the quantity we are looking at, the best we can say is negligence there, but we are looking into it and I can’t go into details.”
Hamilton said there are two possible offences; under the Environmental Management Act for discharged business waste and a more serious offence under the Federal Fisheries Act for depositing a deleterious substance in a fish-bearing stream.
“It could go either way on that,” said Hamilton, adding that the Similkameen flows into the Okanagan River, which contains salmon as well as having its own fishery. “But in the Similkameen, there is a population of whitefish and trout.
“It’s not the best fishery we have around but there are places, little fishing holes that people know about.
“It’s definitely a fish-bearing stream.”
Argo Road Maintenance could not be contacted by press time.