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Detergent mistake that caused bubbly waterway leads to fine for B.C. company

Tide used by contractor to clean roof moss ended up foaming up in a fish-bearing creek
Detergent foam built up on Clayburn Creek after a company used Tide detergent to clean roof moss off a townhouse complex in Abbotsford in April 2021. A company has now been fined $8,900 by the ministry of environment. (Tom Ulanowski/Facebook)

An Abbotsford business has been given a $8,900 penalty for using laundry detergent to remove roof moss from a large townhouse complex in April 2021.

The costly mistake made headlines when a resident of the Sage Strata Complex on Blauson Boulevard noticed that foam was filling the nearby, fish-bearing Clayburn Creek. The resident had also noticed the contractor using Tide detergent on the roofs of the townhouses on April 23.

Foam piled up several feet high after a rainfall a few days after the detergent was applied across all of the roofs. Because roof moss is considered a pest, it must be removed in accordance to the Integrated Pest Management Act.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy took hold of the matter and issued a notice of penalty last November. It was originally $10,000 but reduced due to mitigation attempts by the contracted business, according to ministry documents.

The use of the detergent had “the potential to negatively impact the aquatic environment, and interfered with the Ministry’s capacity to protect the environment and human health,” the decision states. “Clayburn Creek is a fish-bearing stream which contains fish of commercial, recreation or Aboriginal value, i.e. salmonids.”

There are also water users and a water licence holder downstream that were affected by the foam, but the end-of-spill report from measurements taken in May showed no “persistent, long-term impact” to the creek.

The ruling notes that there are registered commercial-class pesticides on the market in Canada. Tide detergent is not one of them, due to the risk to human health or the environment.

The company contracted by the strata company to remove the moss did not have authorization to use pesticides, the ministry document continues. The company owner told the ministry he was acting on information he received from an insurer, but was not able to produce proof of that conversation. He also did not know that moss was considered a pest by the ministry.

That was not considered due diligence by the ministry. However, the company was directed at the time to hire a vacuum truck to remove the visible detergent, which amounted to an $800 reduction in the fine.

The owner also helped with some of the cleaning of the roofs after the event, but was ordered to leave the site. His attempts to help mitigate the damage reduced the fine another three per cent, bringing it to $8,900.

This was also the first and only contravention for the company, and he is no longer providing moss control or roof cleaning. The company will have 30 days from Feb. 15 to appeal the decision.

READ MORE: Volunteers clip fins of 12K coho salmon in Abbotsford


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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