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Volunteers to Monitor Campbell River’s Creeks for Toxins from Roadways

Project part of Island-wide study
Haley Tomlin demonstrates sampling technique for 6-PPDQ volunteers. Photo: Barb Round

Volunteers are helping monitor Campbell River waterways for toxins.

Haley Tomlin, a BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) Fisheries Biologist, met with six Campbell River volunteers at Simms Creek on Thursday, Nov. 23 to train them to participate in a 6-PPDQ monitoring program.

The organic chemical 6-PPD is a preservative commonly found in tires. As those tires wear, they shed rubber onto the road surface. When sunlight causes oxidation of this compound, 6-PPD Quinone (6-PPDQ), a powerful toxin, is produced. Rain washes the toxin off the roadways into the storm sewers, which empty into waterways.

Only discovered in 2020, 6-PPDQ has been identified as the cause of “urban runoff mortality syndrome” (URMS) in multiple fish species. The most vulnerable species is coho salmon, the primary species in Simms Creek. Coho are susceptible to URMS when exposed to incredibly small concentrations of 6-PPDQ (41-95 nanograms per litre); younger life stages of coho appear to be impacted at the lower concentrations.

Other species vulnerable to URMS, include rainbow trout (1,000 ng/L) and Chinook salmon (6,700 ng/L) – however, these concentrations are much higher than would typically be found in the environment. Chum and sockeye appear to be less affected. Tire manufacturers are researching alternatives to 6-PPD, but the change may be years away, and older tires will still be on the roads for many years.

BCCF, in partnership with Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo has launched a 3-year study to monitor 6-PPDQ levels in waterways on Vancouver Island. Volunteers are being trained to take water samples before, during, and after rain events. The data collected will help researchers make recommendations about how to mitigate this problem to preserve the health of our waterways.

Local volunteers will be sampling Simms, Woods, and Willow Creeks in the Campbell River area. Additional volunteers are welcomed to assist with these locations or expand to other locations. To learn more about the project and/or contact the BCCF/VIU team, visit

READ MORE: Campbell River students take action to prevent future fish deaths