Esquimalt officials are urging residents to use caution when storing and disposing of hazardous products, after a light petroleum substance coated the waters in Westbay Marine Village last week.
After an assessment by provincial Environment Ministry, Canadian Coast Guard and municipal staff, it was determined that the March 29 spill, which spread over a large area, was likely less than four litres of a liquid such as gasoline, diesel fuel or brake fluid.
While the petroleum fluid was not considered to pose a risk to the environment, Jeff Miller, Esquimalt director of engineering and public works, said even small spills can damage natural habitat.
“You’re introducing something that’s been manufactured or refined into an environment that’s not really set up to deal with it,” he said.
As a precautionary measure, an absorbent boom was placed around one storm sewer outfall along the west bank of the marina.
It’s not known whether the petroleum-based product was intentionally poured down a storm drain, or whether it leaked accidentally.
“We were attempting to find where the substance had come from by going back, looking through manholes and catch basins … but by that time it had come and gone already,” Miller said.
Last year, a smaller amount of contaminant seeped into water in the area.
“We get sporadic reports of petroleum products washing into West Bay,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to determine who’s doing it.”
Last week’s spill should serve as a reminder to residents that household hazardous waste can be dropped off at the Hartland Landfill recycling area at no charge, he said.
“I’m always concerned when people think they can use the storm and sanitary sewers as a way to get rid of either petroleum or other materials that should be disposed of in a proper manner. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand, when you dump it into either the storm or sanitary (sewers), it goes into our waterways.”