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Corrections says water leak at Abbotsford prison complex poses no risk

Most recent assessment concluded there was no contamination, says CSC
Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford is part of the Matsqui prison complex. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) says chemically treated water that leaked from the central heating plant at Matsqui prison complex in Abbotsford poses no danger to nearby farms or the public.

In an email to The Abbotsford News on Tuesday (April 16), CSC spokesperson Lucinda Fraser said “multiple tests for contamination and environmental risks by environmental experts” have taken place between 2004 and 2022.

“Every assessment has concluded that risks presented to the environment are negligible and that water does not flow to areas whereby it can be consumed or where it could affect neighbouring properties,” she stated.

Fraser said the most recent report concluded there was no contamination and that further assessment is not required.

She said CSC regular assesses its facilities and monitors for leaks, with “immediate steps” taken if any are detected.

Fraser said in the coming weeks, the majority of heating supply lines to Matsqui Institution are expected to be discontinued, as they were for Fraser Valley Institution in 2022.

She said the entire project for the Matsqui complex is expected to be completed by early 2025, at which time all existing central heat-distribution pipes will be decommissioned.

RELATED: Chemically treated water still leaking at Abbotsford prison, says engineer

Fraser said the complex uses environmentally friendly products that are not considered toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and, in highly diluted form, in the combined heat and power system.

“We continue to work with our partners to maintain the protection of the environment and meet our sustainability goals,” she stated.

The Abbotsford News reported on April 11 that a power engineer at the facility was concerned about ongoing leaks at the complex.

Dan Fowle spoke up after an investigation by the federal Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commission concluded that “gross mismanagement” resulted in a serious leak not being adequately addressed and millions of litres of chemically treated water leaching chemicals into the soil for almost four years (2017-21).

The report concluded that the leak was “fully repaired” in 2021.

But Fowle told The News that records indicate that almost nine million litres of water had leaked since July 2021. He said his concern was potential contamination to nearby farms and the risk to public safety.

The News reached out by email to CSC on April 4 and 8 but did not receive a response at that time to inquires about ongoing leaks.

The Matsqui prison complex on King Road consists of Matsqui Institution, Pacific Institution and the Fraser Valley Institution for Women.

The central heating plant supplies hot water for the complex through a piping system that is located four to five feet below ground level.

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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