Boaters in the Nelson area no longer have an excuse for discharging their sewage into the lake.
The West Kootenay Boating Association officially opened its marine waste pump-out station located at the Prestige Marina in Nelson last week. It’s the first pump-out on the lake.
Association president Tim Allen said it’s been a long process.
“I have been working on this for four years,” he said. “There have been a lot of obstacles.”
At the opening, several people said that without Allen the project would not have happened, and he received several rounds of applause. Allen said he has been boating on Kootenay Lake since he was 14.
It will cost boaters $10 to use the pump-out and the waste will flow directly into Nelson’s sewage system.
Allen said private marinas don’t install pump-outs because of the cost of equipment, installation and maintenance.
No level of government provides or requires waste pump-outs on lakes in B.C. although provincial legislation makes it illegal to dump sewage or any other pollutant.
Regional District of Central Kootenay directors Ramona Faust and Tom Newell, present at the opening, told the Star they have discussed this gap with the provincial environment ministry and urged them to study the program in Washington state, which funds pump-outs.
Newell said the funding process Allen developed is a good prototype for adding further pump-outs to the lake.
“We are just fortunate someone was willing to step forward and take on this first one,” he said.
The budget for the project was $51,250.
The Columbia Basin Trust contributed about a quarter of that, with additional funding provided by RDCK Areas E and F, FortisBC, and the Nelson and District Credit Union. Many Nelson businesses also donated money, time, or services. The Prestige Lakeside Resort donated the dock space and the sewer connection was donated by the City of Nelson.
In 2012, Masse Environmental Services of Nelson produced a report that detailed the need for sewage pump-out stations on Kootenay Lake.
The report recommended a network of strategically placed pump-out stations at various marinas on the lake, and Allen said this is the plan.
“Raw sewage and gray water are considered pollutants if discharged into a water body or onto the ground causing potential negative impacts to the environment and a risk to human health,” the report states.
“This waste contains phosphates, nitrates, pathogenic organisms (fecal and total coliforms) and pharmaceutically active compounds.”
It goes on to explain that the phosphates and nitrates act as a food source for algae and bacteria, resulting in depleted oxygen supply for aquatic life. Fecal and other coliforms pose a direct threat to human health.
Faust pointed out there are approved rural water systems that use Kootenay Lake water and treat it, but it is unknown how many people use untreated lake water.
“A direct result of this pump-out installation will be an improvement in water quality in Kootenay Lake, the West Arm and downstream on the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers,” Allen said.