Bloody Wastewater Pipe Is Pumping Viruses Into Canadian River
In 2017, a diver found plumes of blood gushing into Canada’s largest wild salmon migration route. Two years later, it’s still going.
Photographer Tavish Campbell ventured to the bottom of the Discovery Passage channel, off Vancouver Island in British Columbia, in a series of dives in April, June, and October in 2017.
When he found the gore spewing into the water, he was horrified. The fact it’s still pumping to this day gave way to two emotions: disappointment and fear.
Campbell immediately suspected the nearby Atlantic salmon processing plant, Brown’s Bay Packing, was directing its effluent pipe into the channel.
However, after sending a sample of the blood to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, scientists found it was contaminated with a viral disease – and it’s still infected today.
Campbell explained in an Instagram video:
Recent dives have revealed the blood is still flowing and still infected with Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). This virus, which came from the Atlantic ocean, infects 80% of the farmed fish in British Columbia and is proven harmful to Pacific salmon.
After images and reports emerged two years ago, Dominic LeBlanc, the federal fisheries minister at the time, said more must be done to protect wild salmon. Brown’s Bay Packaging also said that all discharge is disinfected before being released into the water, and their process is perfectly legal.
The company’s managing partner, David Stover, told CTV News that a $1.5 million water treatment system is nearly ready to be commissioned.
The disinfection component of the system which is the final stage of the process is designed to disinfect the effluent. Although we don’t test for PRV, we are confident the disinfection process kills bacteria and virus.
The presence of infected wastewater in the same channel as salmon has potentially devastating consequences. While no official findings have been released, Campbell argues that the effects of the gushing pipe are already being felt on the wild salmon population.
Campbell told Vice’s Motherboard:
It was a sinking feeling to see the blood still pouring out. The disappointment was quickly replaced with fear for the health of our wild salmon and by extension, the whole British Columbia coast.
2019 was the worst sockeye salmon return in Canadian history. This is what extinction looks like and it’s happening right under our noses.
Earlier this year, Canada’s federal department adjusted the number of returning Fraser River sockeye salmon expected this year to just more than 600,000 – a drastic fall from the initial projection of nearly five million.
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CreditsTavish Campbell/Vimeo and 3 others