Concerns regarding Moose Lake water quality
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The Moose Lake Watershed Society is sending a letter of concern to Minister Diana McQueen, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, in regards to the water quality of Moose Lake.
Blue-green algae was found in Moose Lake a few weeks ago and following that, fecal coliforms were determined to be present after a test conducted by Alberta Health Services.
The letter requests the province complete testing to determine the best way to treat the water.
Similar testing was conducted in 2010 in Pigeon Lake, where blue-green algae and fecal coliforms were found. The study was initiated by the Pigeon Lake
Watershed Association, completed by WorleyParsons and published May 5, 2010, stating what caused the water contamination.
David Fox, watershed member and MD of Bonnyville councillor, said they are looking to get the Town of Bonnyville, summer villages and the MD to sign the letter, which MLA Genia Leskiw has been made aware of.
“What we’re doing is trying to get the province to do a lake study to see what the problems really are,” said Fox.
Watershed committee vice-chair Kellie Nichiporik said it is likely blue-green algae has been present in Moose Lake before.
“Moose Lake is really high in nutrients and blue-green algae has probably been present for many, many years,” said Nichiporik.
“We have the perfect storm of weather right now, you get nice, hot, humid days and it’s perfect for algae growth. Moose Lake is very stagnant as well so the water doesn’t move very quickly. It takes seven years for the water to enter and leave Moose Lake so it’s a really slow process and a really slow turn around.”
Fox said the watershed committee has met with the Town and summer villages to discuss sending a letter of concern and how to fix the water issues in Moose Lake.
“At our meeting we said we need to do something but we don’t know what needs to be done. It’s hard to say it’s sewer or ducks or what caused it. So if they can do this study, they should be able to tell us exactly what the issues are. It should help ease some people’s concerns,” said Fox.
Nichiporik said the fecal coliforms could be from a number of things.
“There’s various causes for it, so some of it might be from septic systems that are under failure. Some of it could also be if there’s a high bird (count) nesting on the lake. So there’s no way to determine between human or animal,” she said, also stating AHS only tested public beaches, not the Town’s drinking water.
Nichiporik said testing is conducted on a regular basis and believes the water to be safe.
“The Town is regulated under the government under water quality standards so they have to complete rigorous testing and they have a lot higher quality waters so the treatment process is safe to drink. The blue-green algae usually stay on the top of the water and the intake pipe for the Town is several feet deep.”
Mayor Ernie Isley explained testing is completed four times a year, the last test being completed in June. That means, if water quality has worsened since June, the results would not show in their latest test.
The blue-green algae and fecal coliforms were found in Moose Lake after June.
“Up until the last test, everything was coming back well within the limits as far as the quality of the drinking water was concerned. Now, whether between July and August it gets worse than what our average tests are, that’s basically what we’re attempting to determine,” said Isley.
“The decision made at the special council meeting was that we would start to test monthly. The samples are in and we will probably get the results within the next 10 days with the most recent test.”
However, Isley’s concerns do not stop there. He said the plant is outdated and Bonnyville does not yet have a plan B in place for getting clean drinking water to Bonnyville.
“We also know that we have an outdated plant, it was built in the early 80s and according to the Environment (department) we are not within what they would refer to as our desired water source and they say the best source of water for the Town of Bonnyville would be Cold Lake water. But that’s turned into a bit of a political issue that has yet to be resolved.”
However, Isley said it is not up to the City of Cold Lake to determine whether or not Bonnyville can use their water.
“The water is not owned by the City (of Cold Lake). The water is controlled by the province and owned by the feds,” Isley said.
“The City could block usage of their treatment facility, which then would mean if we went with the preferred source, we would have to put in a new treatment plant as well as a distribution line. That’s what Environment is trying to avoid, I think.”
Isley said the Town is also sending a letter to McQueen to ensure she is well informed on the issue.
“A document that’s going in to Alberta Environment’s new minister to update her on the history of it and is to be followed up according to the commitment made by MLA Genia (Leskiw) with her bringing the minister out for a meeting with council, hopefully this fall. So we’ll see what starts to transpire.”
Nichiporik said they hope others in the community and area will write to McQueen.
Those interested in getting involved can attend a Moose Lake Watershed Society open meeting on Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Bonnyville Beach Hall to discuss the project further.
Alberta Health Services also issued an advisory for Kinosoo Beach in Cold Lake last week, due to “elevated levels of fecal coliform” in the water.
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