Mystery sludge endangers fish in Brampton

Published On September 22, 2017 | By Jacob Phillips | News, Sci/Tech

A black sludge found in a Brampton storm drain is being investigated as potentially dangerous to an endangered fish. (Adriana Di Santo)

By: Adriana Di Santo

An investigation by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is being conducted on a mysterious black sludge found in a storm drain in Brampton.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a provincial charity focused on keeping lake waters clean, was taking part in the Redside Dace Project at Fletcher’s Creek when they came across an unrecognizable, dark substance in the water.

Rebecca Harrison, manager of programs for the charity, says that this contaminate could potentially danger fish living in these creeks, specifically the Redside dace.

The Redside dace is an endangered fish and 80 per cent of its population lives in the GTA. They are visual hunters and leap out of the water to feed on airborne insects. They require cool, clear water to catch their pray.

“This kind of contaminate is very destructive to their habitat,” Harrison said. “When you have a sediment in the water, it catches the light and increases the temperature in the water.”

Harrison said the spill came out of a storm water drain owned by the City of Brampton.

“Someone needs to go back and see where the spill originated,” he said.

Toxicity reports done by the ministry will reveal how toxic the contaminate was and what it could mean for other fish in these lakes and rivers.

Since the Redside is an endangered species of provincial and federal level, it could very well involve all levels of government.

“When I left yesterday the ministry had no idea where it came from,” Harrison says.

Both the ministry and the City of Brampton are working together to clean the spill up.

“We should always be looking at the creeks and streams that we live around,” Harrison says. “If we weren’t there doing restoration work, there’s a good chance no one would have seen that spill or reported that spill.”

The ministry is currently working on samples in the lab to determine for sure what the substance may be.

The area supervisor of the Ministry of Environment in Halton and Peel Region, Tim Webb, said the discharge is uncommon. With the help of the City of Brampton workers, the Ministry of Environment had to remove about 14,000 litres of water which was mixed with the substance.

“There’s no telling if this was done purposely,” Webb says, “What my officers, as well as Peel officers have done are looking to businesses who may have had a similar substance such as this on their property.”

Webb says that Fletcher’s Creek is also a tributary to the Credit River, so it also happens to be part of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority.

A similar situation occurred at Woodbine Beach in July 2015, except it was a sludgy mix of seaweed and other debris that washed ashore.

Ken MacGillvary, a Senior Nature Interpreter at the Humber Arboretum, says the issue at Fletcher’s Creek is different than the events took place at Woodbine Beach.

“What happened at the beach was mostly natural contamination and naturally caused,” MacGillvary says. “Fletcher’s Creek was unnatural in both substance and cost.”

MacGillvary says there needs to be more awareness about what a storm drain is and where they go to prevent issues such as what occurred at Fletcher’s Creek.

“My best guess is that this was done out of ignorance,” MacGillvary says. “Many people think storm drains go to water treatment plants, but in almost every case they drain directly into the nearest water system.”

Results from the environment ministry are expected within the next week regarding the mystery sludge.

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