North Cowichan forms task force over toxic Quamichan Lake

A task force is being established to study and seek solutions to the ongoing health issues related to blue-green algae in Quamichan Lake.

A task force is being established to study and seek solutions to the ongoing health issues related to blue-green algae in Quamichan Lake.

The Municipality of North Cowichan decided to set up the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force at the council meeting on Dec. 7.

The task force, which will be a select committee of council and act only in an advisory role, will be expected to recommend treatment strategies that will improve the water quality of the lake to the provincial government for consideration.

The task force will also identify specific strategies that the municipality and its partners can implement to reduce nutrient loading, which is suspected of causing the outbreak of the toxic blue-green algae, in the lake.

Coun. Al Siebring said he’s pleased any proposed strategies to deal with the lake will be given to the province.

“That’s the appropriate door for this to go through, rather than having us deal with all of this,” he said.

There have been at least four reported dog deaths around Quamichan Lake this fall, and all are suspected to be caused by ingesting the algae from the lake.

BC Aquifer, which does water inspections and tests around the province, has confirmed that the water in Quamichan Lake is heavy in cyanotoxins.

As suspected, the toxins are produced by blue-green algae, and if produced in enough concentrations, can have significant health impacts on animals and humans.

It’s widely believed that the farms and housing developments adjacent to the lake have contributed greatly to the problem.

The Municipality of North Cowichan has posted signs around Quamichan Lake warning people about the issue and advising them to keep themselves and their animals away from the water.

The seven-member task force will be chaired by North Cowichan mayor Jon Lefebure and consist of Jim Cosh, from the Quamichan Lake Stewardship Society, Dr. David Preikshot, from Madrone Environmental Services, Dr. Dave Groves, a retired biologist and three people with expertise in water quality that have yet to be chosen.

It’s expected that the task force will report to council with its recommendations by      March 15.

Coun. Rob Douglas said he hopes the task force will consider the future impacts on the lake if all the housing developments that are proposed for the area are constructed.

“We can come up with solutions that will solve the problem for now, but we must also consider the future,” he said.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen added that septic fields in the area are also big contributors to nutrient build up in Quamichan Lake and hopes the task force will take this into consideration during its investigation.

Coun. Tom Walker said he thinks the establishment of the task force and its mandate is “timely and well laid out.”

“I’m very impressed with the quality of the task force members,” he said.

“This is a necessary thing and I wish the task force success.”