UPDATED Mystery spiller strikes again
UPDATE: City says fluid in safe concentrations
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Friday, Oct 25, 2013 03:15 pm
UPDATE: The City of St. Albert, "Samples taken of an unknown substance near a stormwater outfall by Riel Recreation Park on October 20, 2013 have been deemed non-hazardous.
"Results show that this release contained metals and is a similar to the substance found by Riel Recreation Park in September 2013, but is in lower concentrations and well below the environmental limits set for the protection of aquatic life.
"The City, based on the results of the sample, has pumped most of the substance and water into a nearby sanitary sewer line as concentrations were below limits set by the sanitary sewer bylaw.
"The City contacted the Capital Regional Wastewater Commission prior to this taking place.
"A hydrovac truck will be cleaning up the outfall area, spraying down rocks and vacuuming residual materials. Environment Canada and Alberta Environment continue to be informed by the City on its progress and findings.
"The investigation continues into the potential sources of the release with the City using cameras to check the underground storm collection system, checking stormwater manholes, and visually inspecting Rayborn Crescent.
"This is the second time a grey-like substance has been found in this location, with the first appearance occurring on September 25, 2013. The substance was found approximately 50 metres from the Sturgeon River pooled by the outfall and did not reach the river."
PREVIOUS: A mystery pollutant has once again been found near a storm water outlet by the Sturgeon River, and the city suspects it came from Rayborn Crescent.
The city's office of the environment and sustainability issued a report Tuesday afternoon about an unidentified greyish substance found in the retaining pond by Outfall No. 3 near the BMX track in the Riel Industrial Park last Oct. 20.
A similar substance was found at this same site on Sept. 24.
Longtime city resident Lilo Engler said she reported the spill on Oct. 20.
“I walk there every day,” she said, and she noticed the spill almost immediately. “I smelled it right away.”
Engler, 76, said she initially spotted the spill about Oct. 15, but didn't notify anyone since she thought someone else had reported it. As the spill worsened over the following days, she alerted several city councillors and river watchers about it.
Engler described the substance as turquoise or grey, with the scent of sewage.
“It seemed like a grey slime on top of (the water). It looked awful.”
The slime appeared to develop over several days, she noted, and seemed to dampen the smell. She did not see any of the fluid flowing out of the outfall.
Tests of the substance found that it contained the same heavy metals as the stuff spotted in September, said city environmental manager Leah Kongsrude – aluminium, iron, chromium, and zinc, with not much in the way of hydrocarbons.
“We're thinking it's from the same source,” she said, and the same substance. She also suspected this was a fresh dump of the stuff, as there was too much of it to be leftovers from September's spill.
After notifying Environment Canada and Alberta Environment of the spill, crews vacuumed up the contaminated fluid on Thursday and cleaned up the outlet.
Unlike the September spill, Kongsrude said, the heavy metals in this one did not exceed federal guidelines for the protection of aquatic life, and were below local guidelines for sanitary sewage. As such, crews were able to send the contaminated water to the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission's treatment plant for cleanup instead of disposing of it as hazardous waste.
Signs point to Rayborn
Although crews still can't identify this mystery substance, Kongsrude said they did use a camera to figure out where it likely came from: Rayborn Crescent. “It could be a business. It could be someone driving a truck up to a catch basin and dumping stuff.”
Rayborn Crescent is home to a large number of businesses, including auto-body and mechanical shops.
Ivan Mayer, president of the Riel Business Association, expressed surprise that the spill had been traced to Rayborn.
“I know pretty well every business on that crescent,” he said, and he didn't know of any that would be dumping unsuitable materials down the sewer.
He was also stumped as to the nature of the substance.
“If it were a paint or a chemical similar to paint, you'd have hydrocarbons in it,” he said, but that's not the case here.
“The aluminium portion of it, that really throws a person off as to what it might be.”
It's illegal to dump any substance down a storm sewer in St. Albert, Kongsrude said – including soapy water from washing a car.
“The only thing that should go into a storm sewer along a street is rainwater or snowmelt. Nothing else.”
Anyone who dumps something other than storm water down a storm sewer can be fined up to $1,000 plus any provincial or federal fines and the cost of repairs to the sewer system.
Mayer said he thought this spill was either done by accident or in ignorance of the potential harm.
“We have to be careful of what we do dump in the sewer,” he said, as the cleanup costs taxpayers money.
“If it's in question, phone, because there are people who will help you at city hall.”
Engler, who watched crews as they cleaned up last September's spill, criticized the city for not doing more to find those responsible for it.
“This river flows right into the North Saskatchewan,” she said, and on to Lake Winnipeg.
“They should have absolutely made sure that it doesn't happen again.”
Anyone with information about this spill should contact Kongsrude at 780-459-1746.