Protection of Stoney Creek, a fish-bearing stream that traverses Coquitlam, Port Moody and Burnaby, has been the focus of a recent letter-writing campaign directed at the City of Coquitlam and Metro Vancouver.
As a City, we value input from our residents — and from advocacy groups, businesses and other government agencies — and we share their dedication to protecting and enhancing the environment, including our watersheds.
City Council and staff take the health of our local streams very seriously and are committed to protecting the watersheds within our community. In response to the letters, media coverage and general interest in the health of Stoney Creek, we are sharing some background information as well as details of the steps the City of Coquitlam has taken to protect Stoney Creek and our plans for the future:
- The Stoney Creek Sanitary Trunk Sewer serves communities in the Cities of Coquitlam, Burnaby and Port Moody, and is managed by Metro Vancouver.
- The Metro Vancouver sewer trunk that carries wastewater from this part of the region is in generally good shape and has sufficient capacity for projected population growth past 2030.
- Underground pipes on private properties account for around 50 per cent of the region’s sewer pipes.
- Heavy flows are a challenge facing every BC city due to the increased frequency of extreme weather events resulting from climate change. In times of heavy rainfall such as last fall’s “atmospheric river” events that caused devastating damage in other parts of the province, aging pipe systems can allow storm water to enter the sanitary sewer system.
- Much of this inflow comes from private properties, such as residential roof downspouts or foundation drains that have been improperly connected to the sanitary sewer instead of the storm sewer, or when residential sanitary pipes are damaged or leaking.
- The existing Metro Vancouver pipe needs to be replaced to accommodate population growth beyond 2030 and to enable it to manage the current challenges from wet-weather flows during extreme rainfall; Metro Vancouver has initiated plans to expand capacity, however this is a massive project that will take several years to complete.
WHAT COQUITLAM HAS DONE
- Coquitlam’s entire sewer catchment has been modelled, diversion opportunities considered, and every manhole and pipe has been inspected to identify the condition of the municipal system. Coquitlam’s engineering team has worked to address cross-connections with private property owners, repaired and sealed manholes, and repaired sections of aging pipe.
- Coquitlam and Burnaby have installed two intelligent water-monitoring units in Stoney Creek to inform us if there are any water quality or flow issues, and to instantly detect illegal discharges or spills into the area’s stormwater systems. We’ve also installed a smart manhole cover to provide early notification of rising flow levels. Both measures have led to recent improvements in Stoney Creek water quality.
- We have ensured vactor trucks are available and deployed to collect excess sewage flows to reduce flows going into Stoney Creek.
- We are piloting new technology to monitor water quality at construction sites and prevent turbid or contaminated water from flowing off-site to creeks.
- Our Environmental and Worksite Bylaw Officers conduct daily construction site patrols across the city and have increased their focus on monitoring sites within the Stoney Creek Watershed.
WHAT RESIDENTS CAN DO
- Have their property’s pipes inspected at least once a decade.
- Ensure their roof and foundation drains are not connected to sanitary sewer lines.
- Fix or replace old and damaged pipes.
- Avoid planting trees or shrubs on top of sewer lines or drain pipes, as root systems can damage pipes.
LOOKING FORWARD ON STONEY CREEK
- The City has issued an open call through Project Greenlight to solicit innovative solutions to monitor and maintain healthy water courses.
- The City has asked the Provincial Government for increased enforcement tools/penalties to allow cities to better protect local streams from the impact of development activities.
- Members of City Council and Coquitlam staff have met with development industry representatives to convey how seriously the City takes this issue, to make clear that accidental spills are not acceptable and to ensure they’re committing to a tighter regime of controls to ensure accidents are no longer an issue.
- Coquitlam is working with the Oakdale Neighbourhood Association to complete storm drain marking in the Stoney Creek Watershed. Yellow fish are being painted adjacent to storm drains to remind residents, as well as business and developers, that all storm drains lead to sensitive fish habitat.
- In early 2022, City Council endorsed an ambitious $10M grant application to improve creek health in Stoney Creek and across all of Coquitlam. This application for Federal and Provincial funding is under review, with a decision anticipated in spring 2023.
The City thanks its citizens for writing to us about Stoney Creek. We will continue to work to protect this important salmon stream and we are pleased to know that the community is behind these efforts.
Finally, anyone who witnesses a contaminated creek or stream, chemicals entering the storm drainage system, or materials spilled onto public roadways is asked to report it as soon as possible by calling 604-927-3500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (both monitored 24/7).
For more information on the work Coquitlam is undertaking to protect Stoney Creek, please see our dedicated webpage for this important watercourse.
Jaime Boan, General Manager, Engineering and Public Works
City of Coquitlam