By Laura Keil
Valemount resident Courtney Lewis was unimpressed that a vehicle that went into the salmon-bearing Albreda River was left there for three days before it was towed.
She posted a photo online sharing her concern about the fish and wondering why it took so long to get it cleaned up. Many shared her concerns.
According to communications person for BC’s Ministry of Environment David Karn, there were no spills reported in that area during the March 14-17 time period when the car was reportedly in the stream. Reporting a vehicle in the water that is leaking fuel is the responsibility of both the driver who went off the road and the towing company, he said.
“The tow company does not become responsible for the clean up but they should be reporting the motor vehicle incident,” Karn said. “The car owner (or their insurance company) would be responsible for covering the clean-up costs.”
Valemount RCMP said luckily the driver of the vehicle walked away with minor injuries. RCMP said vehicle owners are responsible for towing vehicles unless it is blocking traffic.
UNBC Biologist Mark Shrimpton has studied Coho salmon spawning sites on the Albreda River and he says the vehicle in the water certainly isn’t good, but the timing may be on the safer side. The Coho spawn in the Albreda River during December, he said, meaning the eggs are likely still in the gravel.
“They’re probably not hatched out yet, so they’re probably still at the eyed stage, which, to be blunt, is a pretty good stage to be at—relatively tolerant.”
“The eggs are relatively tough because they’re in the gravel, for one, and a lot of the hydrocarbons will be floating on the surface,”
He said the physical disturbance would be relatively small from a car landing on a potential redd (egg nest in the streambed). The redds he studied were upstream on the river, and he believes most redds are likely higher up, not right next to the highway.
He said the film on the water surface from pollutants is not good for many resident fish and organisms in the stream like sculpins.
Shrimpton says the thing with hydrocarbons is they don’t mix with water and therefore don’t “dilute” in the typical way—they simply get carried downstream.
“That plume gets carried down and when it comes into contact with things, it will adhere.”