By Peter Rusland, Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, September 09, 2011
Three salmon kills around Duncan’s Fish Gut Alley this summer are being probed by all levels of government.
The suspected culprit in the killing of thousands of juvenile coho is a possible toxic cocktail of motor oil, dog feces, detergents, and/or pesticides mixing in storm water flushed into the heritage Cowichan River during rains.
“The speculation is material gets built up in the storm system during dry periods and when rain water flushes it out, there’s a potential toxin to fish,” said Rodger Hunter of the Cowichan Watershed Board.
“It may have been someone pouring things down a storm drain.”
Those ideas are being sleuthed by folks with municipal, provincial and federal governments, plus Cowichan Tribes.
“There could also be other things contributing to water quality in that (Fish Gut) area,” Mayor Phil Kent said.
“We’re testing above and below the outfalls.”
But sample testing hasn’t pinpointed a specific toxin yet, he noted.
“Our outfalls are old and they go straight in (the river).
“We want to determine the sources and look at possible mitigation,” Kent said.
That could mean taxpayers paying to treat the city’s storm water.
“We’ll have to face what we have to and the way we manage our storm water,” he said.
Despite the recent coho kills, council was already studying its storm-water capacity, potentially toward treatment options, noted Kent.
That capacity study, without treatment ideas, could hit city hall in about two months.
Kent noted Duncan’s current dike work also “brought to light a (storm-water) problem that could have been going on for some time.”
Meanwhile, Kent signalled plans are afoot for council to revisit its program of putting eco-symbols near storm drains to remind people against pouring toxins into the river.
“We need to do a better job of education.”