E. coli levels are back to normal in the water at Lakeside Park, and Nelson’s director of public works thinks the August 10 extremely high reading of 4,850 units was a sampling error.
He told the Star today that a sample taken on August 16 showed a reading of 75, well below the acceptable level of 200.
He said tests done at the bridge and the soccer fields, also on August 16, have come back showing levels of 11 and 35 respectively.
Innes said he has no idea how such a large fluctuation could happen.
“There may have been a chance that the sample on (August 10) had a chance to warm up before it was refrigerated, and that would cause the E. coli to multiply,” he told the Star. He said this is only a guess, but added it is likely that the 4,820 reading was a sampling error.
Innes said he thinks the two levels of 1,100 and 845 in the two weeks prior to August 10 were accurate. He said he thinks the 1,100 reading was a legitimate spike and the levels have gone down gradually since.
Reportedly high E. coli levels at Lakeside Park have fueled speculation about where the pollution could be coming from, and what kind of testing is done along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.
The E. coli levels at Taghum Beach, tested by Interior Health Authority on August 8, averaged nine units — far below the acceptable level of 200 units. This would seem to indicate that the reportedly extreme levels at Lakeside Park in the past weeks were not traveling downstream.
Normally, the health authority tests the water at Taghum every two weeks and at Lakeside weekly because these are public beaches. It doesn’t test anywhere else on the West Arm of the lake.
Nor does anyone else. The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) doesn’t, because it does not operate any sewage systems, according to the RDCK’s Jason McDiarmid.
And the Ministry of the Environment doesn’t. A ministry official told the Star that they leave that sort of thing to the health authority.
So E. coli levels anywhere on the lake except at the Lakeside beach are unknown, and the reportedly high Lakeside levels have not caused any agency or government to do any extra testing anywhere else on the lake.
If private landowners want to test the lake water at their property they have to have it done privately, although the health authority will assist them to interpret the results, according to its website.