The province is directing the City of Summerside to take more measures to protect the historic ice pond in the west end of the city.
Over the last month, silt poured into the pond on two occasions. The province confirms most of the runoff is coming from the city's new 14-acre eco-business park near Credit Union Place and an adjacent road-widening project. The province said other smaller properties contributed as well.
"It looks like a big glass of two-per-cent, heavy chocolate milk. Bright red ... very thick," said Tracy Brown, executive director of the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA).
"It's very discouraging."
The not-for-profit organization spent the last four years rehabilitating the pond, located off South Drive.
BBEMA restocked it with a native fish species in the fall of 2019.
Staff from the Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change investigated the first runoff incident on Aug. 27.
The department asked the city to put additional erosion control measures in place. During a check on Sept. 14, provincial staff were concerned the measures were still insufficient.
'Beyond the normal ... practices'
Aaron MacDonald, technical services director for the City of Summerside, said the city originally had normal environmental control measures in place for snow and rain events.
"We went around the site, and working with our contractor, to see what other measures we could implement beyond the normal or industry practices," he said.
A storm-water retention pond, surrounded by silt-fencing, was already in place. Large rocks were added to slow the water's speed. MacDonald said additional straw bales and fencing were also added.
"We then got a separate private contractor in to vacuum out and clean out the entire storm system from there downstream."
Despite those efforts, with the more than 60 millimetres of rain from post-tropical storm Teddy on Sept. 22 and 23, more silt made it to the pond.
After another site visit during the storm, P.E.I.'s Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change wrote to the city directing further action.
The letter, sent Sept. 24, advised the city to hire an independent consultant and put more siltation control measures in place at the work site by Sept. 28.
The letter warns if the directives are not met, further action may be taken including issuing an environmental protection order.
In an emailed response late Thursday afternoon, Summerside CAO Rob Philpott said the city plans to address any directives in the letter.
'They will suffocate and die'
Work to restore fish habitat and improve fish migration in the historic pond was done with a grant worth close to $300,000 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The decision was made not to add more fish to the pond this year after the second siltation incident during post-tropical storm Teddy.
"I have no desire to throw 2,000 fish to their death," Brown said. "You can't take young fish — and we are talking about hatchlings so they are about two to three inches long — you certainly can't throw them into this system. They will suffocate and die within a couple hours."
The concern is what the silt does to the overall aquatic system, she said. The fine particles can cover the pond floor and suffocate micro invertebrates and any fish eggs. It is also damaging to fish gills, Brown said.
Brown said they had measured over half-a-metre of silt around the recently installed concrete fish ladder after the first silt incident on Aug. 27.
"I mean, it's a beautiful looking pond when it's not covered in silt," Brown said.
"It's just very frustrating. It took us basically four years and a half-a-million dollars to restore this pond and this is not what we were looking forward to."
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