Traces of cocaine, pharmaceuticals found in B.C. river after floods

A report commissioned by the Sumas First Nation in British Columbia revealed some shocking results of what was in the floodwaters that devastated the area in 2021.

According to the report’s lead author, Peter Ross: “Cocaine and its metabolic byproduct was found in every single sample. Low concentrations but found everywhere; it does raise questions about our activity around fish habitat.”

Ross said the study, which sampled nearly two dozen fish habitats along the river, looked at more than 135 different pharmaceuticals – but also found veterinary drugs, antibiotics, and diabetes and asthma medication.

“We found an awful lot of other things that from an idealist perspective should not be in fish habitat,” he said.

The Sumas Valley in southern B.C. was once Great Sumas Lake before it was drained to become farmland.

When storms hit in 2021, waters rose more than three metres in some areas.

Large-scale rescue operations took place to save farm animals.

Eventually the military was called in to prepare for surging waters in many nearby First Nations.

Dalton Silver, chief of Sumas First Nation, said he was shocked by the results of the report.

“In a short period of time, we have seen what our people call, ‘A destruction of the homelands’ and it’s something that needs to change,” he said. “The report given today is evidence that we do need to change how we do things.”

Charlene Ned lives on Sumas First Nation by Abbotsford. She said she was taken aback by what was in the water.

“I didn’t know it could get in the water, and how does it get in the water?” she wondered. “And it’s through our waste and all the wastes that goes into the water.”

Ned said she’s concerned about the fish people are catching in the river.

She and others want to know what the effects of the contaminants are.

“All of these surface waters if they don’t drain into the Fraser (River) are percolating in the ground water,” said Ross. “The groundwater in the Fraser Valley is a source of drinking water for the City of Abbottsford, in part, and many other communities.

“There are chemicals that we detected at low concentrations right now, but we detected them nonetheless in groundwater, which means these surface waters that are contaminated are getting (into) our drinking water supply.”

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