Cowichan River warning cancelled

A warning that people should stay out of the lower Cowichan River posted Saturday is now over.

The advisory, put out by Island Health, covered an area of about six kilometres, downstream from Allenby Road bridge to the mouth of the river.

"The Cowichan River has been subjected to drought conditions for the past few months," explained Island Health spokesperson Val Wilson.

"As is typical of river systems, the significant rainfall occurring mid-week last week likely caused washing of the land adjacent to the river and its tributaries and through storm water returns that may have carried high concentrations of bacteria into the main river."

The bacteria was not from the wastewater treatment plant that has an outflow into the river, however.

"Continuous flows through wastewater treatment plants are frequently tested and are not subject to the same rainfall effect," Wilson said.

Testing at the JUB treatment facility found acceptable water quality, and the increase in bacteria was actually highest upstream from the facility’s outflow.

Wilson also assured that fish caught in the river during the advisory are safe to eat as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked.

Repeat water samples taken from the river Monday showed that "the river has returned to its usual excellent river water quality" and is once more safe for tubing, swimming and wading.