Water quality

We operate in an ecologically rich region with a high level of biodiversity, and maintaining good water quality is one of the key ways we can contribute to improved ecosystem health. Accidental spills, planned discharges, stormwater runoff and unmanaged groundwater contamination can impact water quality and aquatic species.

Our approach to maintaining good water quality includes project and environmental reviews, stormwater management, water discharge rules for vessels, partnerships in emergency management and response, and derelict vessel removal.

Project environmental reviews

Fraser River scenic

We require permits for all new activities or developments on or in port lands or waters. Through our Project and Environmental Review process, we review permit applications and make a determination on the potential environmental impact. Projects may also be required to comply with other environmental legislation, such as the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the release of harmful substances into water.

We will not authorize or allow a proposed project to proceed if it is likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. Applicants are required to demonstrate how they will eliminate, or mitigate for any impacts. If approved, measures to protect and preserve water quality are required as conditions of approval.


Stormwater from rainfall, snow, and ice melt can seep into groundwater or become runoff, which ultimately enters water bodies. When stormwater flows over land, pavement, and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, soil and sediment, oil and grease, metals, and other pollutants that could negatively affect water quality.

As part of our Project and Environmental Review process, we have developed stormwater pollution prevention plan guidelines that outline our expectations for stormwater management and pollution prevention plans submitted by port tenants.

We are currently assessing port authority-managed facilities for stormwater quality and associated pollution risks in relation to stormwater pollution prevention plans and current stormwater infrastructure.

Marine operations

The port authority’s marine operations team targets 100 per cent of ocean-going vessel arrivals for boarding, overboard discharge and engine room log inspections. They inform ships’ officers of the port’s environmental policies and other rules and procedures, and monitor compliance with the Port Information Guide, which contains a set of localized practices and procedures designed to promote safe and efficient navigation within port waters and support efforts to protect the marine environment.

For example, ship operators are required to meet protocols for vessel garbage, liquid discharge, black and grey water discharge, bilge and sludge discharge, and hold washing discharge.

Pollution and spill response

Fraser River tug

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for spill response as per the National Spill Preparedness and Response Protocol. We are not the lead agency when it comes to emergency response, but we do provide assistance as we can. Usually this takes the form of working with first responders and other agencies, providing information on a situation through our 24/7 operations centre, our security cameras, our patrol boats, and even our drone.

Fraser River Improvement Initiative

Neglected vessels and structures in a river can pose a risk to the environment, fish and wildlife, or public safety. The Fraser River Improvement Initiative is a five-year program that began in 2012 to clean up municipal waterways and shipping channels on the Fraser River. Derelict vessels and structures can affect water quality through the release of toxic chemicals from fuel, oil and paint as well as smother and destroy environmentally sensitive aquatic habitats.