British Columbia

Road salt runoff has conservationist worried about salmon

Salted roads are good. Salted streams? Not so much, says a local streamkeeper. He says salt runoff from roads could damage local salmon habitat.

'When you see [salinity] over the provincial guidelines, it’s serious,' says a local streamkeeper

John Templeton, chair of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, tests water in Burnaby's Stoney Creek Tuesday. (Jake Costello/CBC)

Sand and salt were used on Metro Vancouver's roads in exceptional quantities this year and now much of that material is finding its way into local waterways.

John Templeton, chair of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, says all that road salt could hurt local salmon.

"This past six-week spell that we have been experienced has been the hardest that I have had to endure when it comes to taking the readings," Templeton told On The Coast's Jake Costello.

"In a normal month in the winter, you would never expect to see a spike of a high reading, but unfortunately … we have seen huge spikes where salt applied to roads leads to huge spikes in the water [salinity]."

Templeton says saltier water in streams where salmon spawn increases the mortality rate of eggs. He also says it can lead to more deformities in the fish.

John Templeton stands in Stoney Creek on Tuesday. (Jake Costello/CBC)

Templeton says over the last few weeks, the water's salinity has sometimes been four times higher than provincial guidelines.

"When you see it over the provincial guidelines, it's serious," he said.

However, recent rains have been helping out by diluting some of the saltiness, and he's hopeful in coming days the salinity will decrease further.

He's also hopeful future winters will see less salt used on local roads.

With files from Jake Costello and CBC Radio One's On The Coast

A chart provided by the Stoney Creek Environment Committee shows weekly fluctuations in water salinity in one Stoney Creek tributary. (scec.ca)

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