By Vanessa Broadbent
Extremely high E. coli levels in Tucelnuit Lake last week left the public swimming at their own risk.
The Town of Oliver issued a water quality advisory for Rotary Beach on August 31, recommending the public refrain from swimming in the lake or drinking the water, after E. coli levels reached 35 times the maximum amount suggested by Health Canada.
Oliver Parks and Recreation sends water samples from the lake to a lab in Kelowna every week from June to September, as part of Interior Health’s beach sampling program.
The water sample submitted on August 27 was the first this year that didn’t meet Health Canada and Interior Health standards, said Carol Sheridan, manager of Parks and Recreation.
“The water quality has been fine all summer based on those test results, including the weeks leading up to the advisory.”
Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality states that fresh recreational waters used for primary contact activities must have an E. coli count equal to or less than 200 per 100 millilitres based on a minimum of five samples, or 400 based on a single sample.
On August 27, results showed an E. coli count of 7,000. Only two weeks earlier, test results from August 13 showed levels at 110.
The cause of the high E. coli levels is unknown and staff from the CARO Analytical Services Lab in Kelowna were unable to be reached for comment.
“It is possible that the waterfowl activity was higher, that the wind action we were experiencing that week stirred things up or the sample itself created a faulty result,” Sheridan said. “Because it was not possible to retest immediately we followed protocol and issued the water quality advisory.”
The Lakeside Resort, situated on Tucelnuit Lake, has access to Rotary Beach. Manager Dawn Brooks said the resort was not made aware of the advisory.
“The last time this happened, I had a guest staying here tell us the Rotary Beach was closed,” she said.
“Whoever it is that issues the water quality, they never inform us.”
However, Brooks said the majority of the resort’s visitors in September come to Oliver to golf, not swim in the lake.
Sheridan said the recent advisory was the first she’s seen in her time with Parks and Recreation since 2010.
On Sept. 4, water samples from Rotary beach showed E. coli counts of 12 and 54 and the advisory was rescinded.
The results of both the Tuc-el-Nuit water samples this week showed bacteria levels are well below the accepted Health Canada Guidelines. This afternoon Interior Health advised that the water advisory can be rescinded for Rotary Beach effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/sTQGIgLnmJ
— Town of Oliver (@TownofOliverBC) September 7, 2018