Plastic trash, including small pellets called nurdles, are washing up on B.C. shorelines. (Surfrider Vancouver)

‘Outrageous’: Environmental group urges action from B.C. on plastic pellets in waterways

Plastic pellets are being eaten by fish, birds, turtles

An environmental group is asking the province to take stronger measures after thousands of plastic pellets washed up on the shores of the Fraser River in Delta.

Amine Korch, chair of the Vancouver chapter of Surfrider, said two researchers were out at Annacis Island this weekend.

“Their findings, especially after the heavy rain we’ve seen, was that there’s still quite a bit of spill happening in that area,” Korch told Black Press Media by phone Monday.

The researchers were specifically looking at Audley Channel, a drainage channel on Annacis Island. The pellets, called nurdles, are about five millimetres in diameter and go on to be made into plastic items like bottles, containers and lids.

Korch said the pellets end up in the environment mainly through transportation.

“There is a large concentration around train tracks, outside the warehouses, around the storm drains in those areas,” he said.

“As a result of the storm drainage, they end up in this channel. Once they end up in the Fraser River, it’s really just storms and winds that make them travel all over the area.”

All it would take, Korch noted, is for the companies or government to install storm drain covers to keep the pellets out.

Korch said the nurdle-watching project, which started on Vancouver Island, has reported the small pellets around the island’s coast and as far up as the Sunshine Coast.

And while they are ugly when they wash up, Korch said there’s a much bigger issue.

“It ends up being eaten by fish,” he said. “We have reports of people fishing in the Fraser River and the salmon that they find… they find a bunch of pellets inside. They’re not even safe for consumption.”

Birds, turtles and a lot of marine wildlife ingest them as well, he said.

Korch declined to name the companies on Annacis Island that produced these plastic pellets, but said there are a few right beside the Audley Channel.

He said he also wants to see a better spill response, as when liquids are dumped into waterways.

“It’s a bit outrageous,” he said. “There’s a lot of response to [a liquids spill]: There’s cleaning teams, people install booms… but when it comes to these plastic pellets, there’s almost no response to it.”

The researchers report their findings in letters to the province and to its RAPP line, he said, urging anyone who finds the pellets along waterways or near storm drains to do the same by calling 1-877-952-7277.

A map of where the researchers find pellets can be found here: http://maps.library.uvic.ca/NurdlesSwBCdraft.html#8/49.958/-124.683.

Black Press Media has reached out to the environment ministry and the City of Delta for comment.

READ MORE: Humans unknowingly eat 100,000 particles of plastic per year, says new UVic study

READ MORE: Plastics ban coming after Environment Canada science review backs need


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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