SWAT airs water concerns

Potential water contamination, including geese, old septic tanks and silt were the focus of a meeting hosted by Shuswap Water Action Team

  • Aug. 9, 2013 8:00 a.m.

Potential water contamination risks including geese, old septic tanks and silt were the focus of an early summer meeting hosted by the Shuswap Water Action Team (SWAT).

SWAT president Ray Nadeau listed 12 major ongoing threats. He stressed the only way to properly protect the water supply is to get help from all levels of governments and local agencies.

Nadeau said he believes this could be accomplished  through a permanently funded Shuswap Watershed Board, similar to the one created in the Okanagan Lake Watershed.

Flood debris in the spring was brought forward as a concern, but minutes of the meeting suggest the biggest threat is caused by silt from logging operations that can remain in the water for long periods of time.

Low turbidity is essential for drinking water treatment systems to work properly and kill or disable harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites, said Nadeau.

Also discussed was the threat to drinking water posed by some septic systems. Dry wells throughout the area allow sewage to go through a hole in the ground and, from there, directly into the groundwater, notes the minutes.

Poorly maintained and leaking septic systems and systems that flood during freshet were also discussed.

“The new B.C. regulations for septic systems are inadequate to protect our water from septic failures and pollution both for existing and new installations,” the minutes state.

It was also noted at the meeting that Interior Health Authority has little enforcement ability and is no longer inspecting or monitoring septic systems.

Other concerns include the replacement of smaller, older cabins with larger homes, without a change in the septic system.

At the meeting, resident Samara Sonmor suggested the Columbia Shuswap Regional District has the authority to create bylaws to address issues that are not covered by provincial regulations.

But CSRD South Shuswap director Paul Demenok, said that while it could be done, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Shallow water, increased development and the large population of shore birds were listed as having an impact on water quality in Blind Bay.

Last year high e-coli levels caused the closure of Blind Bay to the public beach. High numbers of waterfowl in the area was later determined to be the cause.

Last year Shuswap Lake Integrated  Planning Project (SLIPP) removed abandoned docks and other debris from the bay. But more debris was brought in during freshet.

A number of SWAT members expressed interest in helping to keep the beaches clean if  some kind of event could be co-ordinated.

While threats to the water supply continue, SWAT is confident steps can be taken improve and maintain water quality.