A Brentwood Bay community group is sounding the alarm over contamination they say they’ve discovered in the bay.
Members of the Brentwood Bay Marine Community Society say they took samples of the water in four areas of the bay on May 8 and had them tested by MB Labs in Sidney. The results, they say, show levels of pollution “higher than acceptable for safe recreational use.”
Society member John Evans was one of the people who took samples from out in Saanich Inlet and then from three areas within Brentwood Bay, close to shore. He said their sample taken at Keane Way Beach, south of the ferry terminal, showed elevated levels of enterococcus — a bacteria found in human intestines and is an indicator, according to Island Health, of fecal contamination in salt water.
Evans said their sample showed 74 milligrams of enterococcus per 100 millilitres of water, and claimed that such a reading “is sufficient to be investigated.”
He’s asking either Island Health or the District of Central Saanich to find out the source of the contamination. Evans added there is a municipal sewage pumping station and an inter tidal sewage manhole at the site.
“Does it leak? We don’t know, but there is a problem there,” he said.
Island Heath tests water at beaches throughout the South Island, including the Saanich Inlet. Their public beach report for testing done May 22, 2018 indicates low enterococci levels at testing spots at Clarke Road and Stelly’s Cross Road. The Inlet is currently deemed by Island Health as “microbiologically safe to swim.”
Evans said the beach, while apparently not classified as a recreational beach by the District, does get its fair share of users. He added so far the District has not responded for the Society’s call to look into the contamination, so they have been in contact with Island Health. So far, however, Evans said there’s been little action.
Meribeth Burton, Island Health manager of media relations, said Island Health staff have been to two of the same sites the Society has tested, but have come away with different results.
She said enterococcus levels between 35 and 175 mg per 100 ml would instigate an investigation — so the Society’s 74 might indicate something was present at the time the test was done. However, she said after conferring with the CRD, which also conducts tests in the area, the results are different and the bay is currently considered safe.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said the municipality would be happy to work with any group reporting potential pollution in the bay — but noted the District has not yet received any information from the Society. Windsor said he is aware that the Society did some testing and hopes they share it, so that staff can investigate.
“One test, done one time, in one place might indicate something,” he said, “so, it’s hard to comment. We need to know more about it.”
Windsor said the District will work with any concerned citizen or group if there’s a concern of contamination in Brentwood Bay or the Saanich Inlet. He said they and other agencies — like Island Health and the Capital Regional District, both of which do regular water testing — need to see the information, check the work done and even investigate the area themselves to see if it’s a recurring issue.
In a statement from the Society, they noted they asked the District council last fall to approve testing for contamination in the bay. They stated when nothing was done, they decided to do it themselves, following the guidelines set out by MB Labs.
The move was borne out of a political response to the District, after the Society formed in opposition to the municipality’s plan to obtain a license of occupation from the provincial government for Brentwood Bay. Central Saanich is after that license to help deal with the problem of derelict vessels and pollution caused by boats in that body of water.
The Society disputes that source of contamination, claiming it’s more likely to be coming from land-based sources, and have indicated they will try to beat the District to the punch and get the occupation license first.