Friends of Hazelmere and Campbell Valley spokesmen David Anderson (right) and Brian Coote survey the Little Campbell River from 16 Avenue Friday

South Surrey diesel spill sparks more truck-park criticism

South Surrey truck-park proponents assure development would only proceed once all concerns are addressed.

A collision last week on 16 Avenue involving two dump trucks and a minivan highlights concerns around a truck-parking facility proposed for the area, residents say.

“That they’re even considering this is an outrage to us,” said Brian Coote, spokesman for the newly formed Friends of Hazelmere and Campbell Valley. “There’s just so many reasons that this is the wrong site.”

Crash Oct. 28The crash occurred around 8 a.m. last Wednesday, when the dump trucks, travelling in opposite directions east of 192, sideswiped each other. The impact caused one to swerve into the oncoming lane and hit a minivan.

While police said injuries weren’t serious, residents say the diesel that spilled from one of the truck’s ruptured tanks into the nearby Little Campbell River is.

“It was smashed and it was empty,” Phillip Milligan, president of the Little Campbell Watershed Society, said of the 380-litre tank.

Milligan didn’t know how much fuel was actually in the tank at the time of the collision, however, “certainly, a lot of it drained right down the hill and into the river.”

However, according to City of Surrey officials, a work crew responded to the scene only for fuel on the road.

“They don’t think anything made it into the river,” spokesman Oliver Lum said Thursday.

Ministry of Environment officials confirmed this week that they were not asked to investigate a spill at the site.

But David Anderson, an FHCV member and director of A Rocha’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre – located directly across from the proposed truck park – said he saw the fuel flow into the waterway firsthand.

“I stood on the bridge and watched diesel trickling down… straight into the Little Campbell,” he said. “A little more rain and (spawning salmon) will be all through here.”

Friday afternoon, a sheen was still evident along the river’s edge. “You can still smell the diesel,” Coote said.

The potential for future pollution of the environmentally sensitive area – under which lies much of the Brookswood aquifer, which supplies water to thousands of rural South Surrey and Langley residents – is a key reason why FHCV and the LCWS are opposed to the proposed truck park. Other concerns include the loss of a critical wildlife corridor, safety along already-busy thoroughfare, and the impact to residents of three residential-care facilities in the area.

However, Parm Garcha, one of the project’s proponents, said every effort is being made to address concerns on all sides – for the trucking industry, residents and environment.

If that doesn’t happen, “we will not proceed,” Garcha told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

Garcha – a Surrey resident for more than 20 years – said proponents have met with local residents and stewardship groups; environmental and hydro-geological reports have been commissioned; and consultants have assured the habitat can be protected.

“We are making sure we address each and every concern to the fullest.”

Garcha described environmental concerns as “valid” but said that any flaw or accident could be “mitigated or controlled 100 per cent.” He cited bioswales as among “engineering marvels” planned to prevent contaminants from entering the Little Campbell. As well, 100-metre setbacks from the river would be enhanced for wildlife.

Proximity to the border will reduce the congestion, pollution and damage caused by trucks that are on the city’s roads more than necessary due to the current lack of truck parking, he added.

And while Anderson and Coote said considerable concern remains with council’s Sept. 14 decision to remove the subject 77 acres from the Local Area Plan process to fast-track the development, Garcha said truck parking in Surrey needs to be addressed quickly.

“Trucks have been a problem in Surrey for at least 10 or 12 years,” he said. “We’re trying to balance it for the truckers that nobody wants. They’re also taxpayers, they’re also people that are providing goods… These trucks can be safely put in.”

The assurances have done little to quell the concern of Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club members, who have a 59-year history of restoring the Little Campbell. The 1284 184 St. hatchery is located just 2.4 km downstream of the proposed facility.

Club president Bob Donnelly said Monday that letters have been sent to mayor and council outlining their concerns.

In a video created to raise awareness of the concern, Donnelly warns that any leak of chemicals and other contaminants into the river “would destroy all fish life in the river regardless of season.”

“We’re not convinced that any amount of assurances or engineered safety approaches would effectively protect this river,” he states. “At some point in the future, those will fail.”

The issue also came up at the Langley Township council Monday, in the form of a motion to formally oppose the project, however council voted that it was too soon to take such a position.

Township Mayor Jack Froese said Surrey promised to keep Langley in the loop, and that regulatory hurdles may stop the development: “They (project proponents) have a long road to go.”

– with files from Dan Ferguson

 

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