Beaver, birds among dead wildlife as chemicals from industrial fire impact Toronto rivers

More animals have perished, likely as a result of the runoff from a chemical spill caused by a six-alarm industrial fire at an Etobicoke facility last week.

Toronto Fire Services were called to Brenntag Canada, a chemical distribution company, at 35 Vulcan Street near Martin Grove Road and Belfield Road around 1:15 a.m. on Friday, August 11, following explosions at the building.

Given the nature of the chemicals stored at the site, concern shifted to potential health and environmental threats. Etobicoke resident Craig Strathy told CityNews he was at Royal Woodbine Golf Course hours after the fire broke out. He immediately noticed a change in the colour and consistency of Mimico Creek, which runs through the golf course.

Strathy witnessed Mallard ducks struggling to walk as they appeared covered in a thick substance, later confirmed by the Toronto Wildlife Centre as oil.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks says the chemical spill has affected Mimico Creek and Humber Creek. As a result, various mammals and birds died in the days following the industrial fire.

“The ministry is aware of the impacts to Mimico Creek and Humber Creek stemming from the fire at 35 Vulcan Drive. The runoff has reached the Humber Creek, not the Humber River,” the ministry told CityNews.

“The ministry has taken samples of the impacted creeks. Analysis of the samples is currently underway.”

A government spokesperson said the ministry has not observed any impacts to the Humber River or Lake Ontario from the spill and that they do not anticipate any impacts to the municipal drinking water supply.

“Containment measures have been reinforced to control offsite impacts to the natural environment. Containment and cleanup locations have been set up downstream of Humber Creek and Mimico Creek,” the ministry added. “Measures include placing booms, haybales, installing underflow dams, deploying vacuum trucks to collect the oil slurry and diverting discharge from reaching the creeks.”

Toronto Wildlife Centre rescue teams were on the scene at the creek on Saturday to assist wildlife impacted by the presence of chemicals in the water, telling CityNews between 40 and 50 ducks may have been affected by the spill. In an update on Monday, the wildlife centre said its team captured 49 ducks in Mimico Creek since Saturday.

A beaver is seen dead near Mimico Creek. Photo: Craig Strathy/CityNews submission

On Wednesday, the Toronto Wildlife Centre confirmed a young beaver, initially thought to be a rare river otter, had perished due to runoff.

Strathy tells CityNews the beaver was found on Wednesday near the end of West Deane Valley Road, which is in the proximity of West Deane Park and Mimico Creek.

“[I found] a duck at Royal Woodbine Golf Course on Tuesday. What can have a chance of surviving in this?” Strathy said. “Heartbreaking that this is just a baby beaver.”

Nathalie Karvonen, Executive Director at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, said its Enforcement Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada is collecting dead bodies and having them necropsied.

“We also had reports of the beaver this morning and are checking with Environment and Climate Change Canada,” Karvonen said. “While we certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this poor beaver died as a result of the toxins in the water, there is no way for anyone to know that until the proper testing is done.”

Nearby residents are being asked to report any sightings of birds or other animals affected by the substance that appears oiled to the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

A Mallard duck was found dead near Mimico Creek at the Royal Woodbine Golf Course in Etobicoke. Photo: CityNews submission.

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