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New wetlands to clean Whistler’s storm water

Plants can be salvaged before construction gets underway



The municipality is creating a small wetlands to clean the storm water runoff coming from the village.

The small "engineered wetlands" will stretch along a portion of Blackcomb Way, directly across from the Montebello town home development.

The area currently is full of small shrubs and trees.

"Engineered wetlands are a fairly common practice," said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works with the municipality.

"The plant life and natural bacteria and bugs are a wonderful way to break down some of the contaminants that are found in discharge of storm water from urban areas."

Currently the storm water runoff from the village is funnelled into an underground pipe and sent into Fitzsimmons Creek.

This project will divert the water from the pipe before it hits the creek and send it through the wetlands.

The wetlands will act as a natural cleaner, removing any oil and hydrocarbons from the water.

"It’s adopting the best practices for storm water management so it’s an oil/water separator to remove any oil and hydrocarbons," said Barnett. "We’ll also have a grit separator probably once a year (that) will come into this area and remove the grit that’s accumulated so that we can remove it before it gets discharged into the environment."

An inventory and sampling program conducted by the municipality over the past few years shows that the village storm water runoff contains salts from snow clearing, oils and hydrocarbons from vehicles as well as grease, copper, lead, zinc, fecal coliforms and chloride.

To build this natural filter the municipality will be removing some natural plant species in order to create a small sloping ditch.

This will also help the water to move slowly from the south end of the wetlands to the north end.

"This will be slow moving water," explained Barnett.

"It won’t be stagnant."

He explained that a lot of discharges from wastewater treatment plants are done using engineered wetlands.

The total project will cost under $200,000. Most of that cost comes from development approvals said Barnett, so there will be very little cost to the taxpayer.

The project is slated for completion by the end of the fall.

The municipality will be removing some of the existing plants and trees in order to better accommodate the wetlands. These will be replaced by species better suited to the wetter conditions.

The municipal parks department has taken some of the plants for replanting elsewhere and the remainder will now be offered to the public.

The native species up for grabs include Sitka spruce, from seedlings to four foot tall trees, hardhack, a pink flowering shrub, native roses and willow.

The shrubs and trees within the marked area can be removed using hand-tools only. No bulk soil removal is allowed.

The public can access the small area running parallel to the road across from the Montebello town homes from Saturday, Aug. 7 to Monday, Aug. 23. After that two-week window, construction of the project will begin.

For information about the plant removal call Heather Beresford, municipal stewardship supervisor, at 604-935-8322 or e-mail