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Angling banned in three local rivers due to spill


Measures to rehabilitate severely depleted fish stock has led to an angling closure on the Cheakamus and Mamquam Rivers and a portion of the Squamish River, the Ministry of Environment announced Friday (Aug. 12).

"Effective Monday, Aug. 15, the closure will provide unhindered opportunity for returning salmon to reach spawning grounds," stated the government news release. "It will also protect trout and other species in that section of the Cheakamus not directly impacted by the spill."

The closure is in effect until at least Sept. 30 and affects all of the Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers and the portion of the Squamish River downstream from the Cheakamus, Squamish river confluence.

"Pink and Chinook salmon have been returning to this system for the last several weeks," stated a Department of Fisheries and Oceans news release. "It is assumed that the chemical spill destroyed a large portion of these spawning fish and may have destroyed their eggs. Coho fry in the system were also affected."

The provincial news release stated that the closure has the support of all levels of government, First Nations and regional sport fishing advisory committees.

Drinking water from wells along the Cheakamus River has been tested and cleared for drinking by Vancouver Coastal Health. The health authority released their findings in an Aug. 8 news release following the Aug. 5 derailment of nine CN Rail cars, resulting in 41,000 litres of caustic soda being dumped in the Cheakamus River. On Aug. 5, the health authority warned residents along the Cheakamus to avoid drinking well water, handling fish and to consult a doctor if skin irritability occurred. But three days later, the health authority amended the warnings, stating that initial acidic-alkaline testing of 48 wells within 100 meters of the rivers showed that pH levels were considered acceptable for drinking.

"Recreational use of the Cheakamus River and the Squamish estuary is safe at this time," stated the news release. But "recreational users will be asked to stay out of the water if a water advisory is reactivated" in the event of a spill during the tank car's removal.

The tank car carrying the caustic soda was removed Friday (Aug. 12) prompting another advisory to avoid well water and recreational use of the river. Subsequent reports advised the public that the removal of the tank, which had been packed in dry ice to freeze its toxic contents, successfully concluded at 3:20 p.m. And 24 hours after the tanker was dragged out by bulldozer, the water advisory was rescinded.

Three bulldozers were used to winch the damaged tanker up a steep

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