Red river near Plan B site worries protesters

A river near the highway realignment project in the Bonshaw-New Haven area of P.E.I. ran red with silt on Friday morning further upsetting protesters and environmental groups opposed to the Plan B project.
P.E.I. transportation officials said the West River changed colour after a small section of silt fencing was undermined in the rain. (CBC )

A river near the highway realignment project in the Bonshaw-New Haven area of P.E.I. ran red with silt on Friday morning, further upsetting protesters and environmental groups opposed to the Plan B project.

Gail Rhyno arrived at the Plan B construction site Friday morning to see reddish-brown water gushing into the river.

"Overflowing, or silt traps that perhaps aren't even working.  Water that's coming down off the side of construction banks that's kind of flowing past silt traps instead of going towards them.  And just sludge going down," she said describing the scene.

Crews said the West River changed colour after a small section of the river's filter fence was undermined in a recent rainfall.

"We got a lot of rain in that area and we certainly have staff to monitor those areas and check right away so as soon as there is an issue if it does develop we will be there and repair the situation immediately," said Stephen Yeo, the province's chief engineer.

He said there was no construction in that area for the last couple of days.

Before construction started this fall, the province's environment department approved the project with conditions.

One of those conditions is to have erosion control measures in place designed to withstand a one-in-25-year rainfall.

More than 21 millimeters fell in Charlottetown Thursday.

"From time to time if there's a small event that happens we'll repair it right away.  It's difficult to plan ahead for every event, but certainly we have taken precautions," said Yeo.

But some protesters aren't convinced the safety measures are working.

"This should have been looked at as a very small test. It should have been nothing. You know, we should have been able to come down here and take photographs and see that the mitigations they put in place were working," said Rhyno.

The West River Watershed group said it's concerned for spawning Atlantic salmon.

"We are nowhere close to having a one-in-25-year rainfall event yet and we have another six months to go of exposed soil," said Megan Harris with environmental group. "With this much sediment in the river it will cover those reds and smother the eggs and those eggs will die."

Harris said she expects to see a lot more erosion in the coming months as construction continues and winter approaches.