"Like a diarrhea swimming pool": Local alarmed at Granville Island water quality

Jun 3 2023, 6:21 pm

A local is finding it hard to take pride in their City when all the tourists at Granville Island are seeing “doody” dirty water.

Nick Luca, a worker at The Arts Club Theater Company, told Daily Hive that he felt “absolutely disgusted and embarrassed” about the water in False Creek when he went to work one day.

“At almost anytime or any day, there is a disgusting ‘film’ in the water,” said Luca. These photos of the water were taken on Thursday, June 1, at 5 pm.


Nick Luca/Supplied


Nick Luca/Supplied

According to Luca, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival brought many visitors and tourists to the area, and the air smelled terrible.

“Along with the spectacular views, there was a smell of s*** in the air,” said Luca.

“Not only is the water brown, like a diarrhea swimming pool, but the stench is so overpowering… Not a great first impression when walking into Granville Island, taking that iconic picture with the bridge sign in the background, and pinching your nose,” he said.

Oil-like sheens on the water can be the result of pollution, but they can also be caused by bacteria.

E.coli in the water

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, the water in False Creek is tested as part of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Plan, but the water quality is not suitable for swimming. So, they do measure the E.coli in the water, but it’s for informational purposes only.

According to readings done on the morning of June 1, the water at three different testing sites near Granville Island registered either 10 or less than 10 E.coli MPN/100ml. For comparison, it was 96 E.coli MPN/100ml at Third Beach, which was open for swimming.

When the guidelines for recreational water quality exceed a geometric mean of 200 E.coli/100ml or a single sample is less than 400 E.coli/100ml, health advisories may be issued.

So, it doesn’t look like there’s a dangerous amount of E.coli in the water according to VCH testing, but there’s still something in the water.

Sea foam could be to blame

Daily Hive reached the City of Vancouver about the water, and staff on the City’s environment team said that based on its characteristics, it’s “mostly likely sea foam.”

“Sea foam occurs along many coastlines and is a common occurrence in False Creek,” said the City.

“Sea foam generally forms during warmer weather and results from the accumulation of dissolved organic matter, including dead algae particulates, that moves onto shorelines.”

Sea foam can smell bad, too, because of decomposing material, and brown discolouration is “often sand or silt trapped in the foam.”

Why is False Creek dirty?

It’s an open secret that part of the reason why False Creek seems “dirty” is because it’s where sewage overflow is directed.

“During periods of high rain, stormwater runoff raises the levels of flow in the combined sewage system above the capacity of the pipes designed to carry flow to the treatment plant. This excess flow during storm events (a mixture of untreated sewage and stormwater) is then released directly into False Creek,” per a report from BC’s Ministry of Environment.

The City has made attempts at improving the water quality. Per a 2018 report on the False Creek Water Quality Improvement Initiative, efforts included “providing publicly available stationary pump-out facilities at both civic marinas” and “delivering the ‘Pump Don’t Dump’ public education campaigns” to discourage boaters from discharging waste into the water.

Daily Hive has reached out to the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health and Granville Island for more info and will update this story.

With files from Daily Hive Staff.

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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