Powdered detergent responsible for kilometres-long trail of foam in Abbotsford creek

Kathleen Hackett was walking with a friend on Clayburn Creek Trail in Abbotsford Friday afternoon when something strange caught her eye.

Through the trees, the water in the creek seemed a little off.

"We were quite high up and I remember thinking, 'Wow, the water sure looks white today,' but I didn’t really think that much of it until we got further along," Hackett told CTV News Vancouver.

As the pair got closer, they could tell that what they were seeing wasn't the water itself, but foam, and lots of it.

"It was obvious there was a problem because there was an awful lot of suds in the water," Hackett said. "At points, you could tell it was taller than we were, and then we got up to the culvert where it was coming out of and it was overwhelming the area with foam."

“Tuesday was the first time we saw it,” said Esmarie Engh. “It’s just ginormous heaps of foam; really, really white and really, really big.”

Engh and her friend Cynthia Ritchie hike the area daily and couldn’t believe the amount of foam that was there. 

“Pretty much the four kilometres (of the creek had foam) on it. You cannot see it from the very top here, but you can start seeing it from, it’s like three-quarters of the way,” said Engh.

Hackett said other hikers on the trail told her the suds were the result of a contractor cleaning the roofs at a nearby townhouse complex.

B.C.'s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy echoed this account, saying it had confirmed that the substance causing the foam in the creek is Tide powdered detergent.

The City of Abbotsford and Environment Canada are also aware of the situation, the ministry said, noting that the "party responsible" for the spill is "taking action to remediate the problem."

Hackett expressed concern for fish and other wildlife living in and around the creek, though the ministry says nearby residents have been monitoring the situation and have not reported any "impacts" on fish habitat.

"We look at that walk as our forest therapy and are quite respectful of the nature of the area," Hackett said. "You just know there’s going to be some permanent damage done, with Tide in a creek, so I can imagine that it’s going to take a while for it to recover."

Ritchie wants to see accountability for the business responsible.

“Some fines and some kind of prevention too,” she told CTV News. “Pay attention (to) what you are doing.”

The ministry told CTV News there was no damage to the fish habitat and since the problem had been stopped, they just had to wait for the foam to be swept away.

By Saturday afternoon just a few patches and bubbles of foam remained. Most was gone.

CTV News reached out to the City of Abbotsford for more information, but has not received a response.