A report issued by Slocan River Streamkeepers raises concern about the state of the local watershed.
Ongoing monitoring of the health and diversity of microscopic life forms in the Slocan River illustrates that benthic invertebrates are showing symptoms that need to be noted and further investigated, said Jennifer Yeow, Streamkeepers biologist.
She explained these tiny insects that live at the bottom of the river are a good indicator of overall stream health. Three stations on the Slocan River were monitored for about five years — some others were sampled once.
“The results showed that there was potential stress meaning that there are some impacts on water quality,” Yeow told 103.5 the Bridge. “Some years, it looked okay. Other years there was potential stress. One year — 2009, just downstream from the town of Slocan it registered severely stressed… We don’t know why but we’re investigating.”
At that same site, there are many organisms missing that are found in other locations, said Yeow.
Further samples have recently been taken for comparison. Factors contributing to stress on microorganisms include water temperature, chemical contamination and heavy metals from mining in sediment.
“It’s hard to say,” said Yeow. Sediment sampling is planned.
Sites sampled include Koch, Bonanza, Wilson, Winlaw, Carpenter and Goose creeks as well as sites along the Slocan River, near Nixon Island and on Kootenay River near Shoreacres.
While data has been collected since 2005, prior to the jet fuel spill into Lemon Creek this past summer; the accident did shine a light on the importance of healthy waterways.
In addition to keeping an eye on benthic invertebrates, Streamkeepers has been taking monthly water quality samples for five years. Yeow says at the end of September samples collected near Shoreacres showed “unusually high levels of bicarbonate and alkalinity.”
“In October, it seems to go back to normal. So we can infer that for at least a month after the spill, the water chemistry in the Slocan River was affected,” she said.
Extra samples were taken because of the spill including above and below the accident site as well as in the wetlands and side channels below Lemon Creek.
The invertebrate study also provides important information in the study of fish populations on the Slocan River. Yeow said the report represents part of the complex picture that is river health. More reaserch is invaluable.
“We start doing these kinds of studies and it creates more questions than it answers,” said Yeow.
“The site at Slocan is an example. When you see something like a severely stressed site… then you are obliged to follow up on it to find out why you are seeing these kinds of things.”
Streamkeepers’ watershed monitoring has been done by trained community groups since the late 1990s and is funded by the Columbia Basin Trust.