North Cowichan’s council is looking to build a reserve fund to help continue water-quality improvements at Quamichan Lake.
Council directed staff to develop a proposal for the reserve fund after a report on the ongoing efforts to deal with water quality issues at the lake was tabled at the regular council meeting on July 18
The health of Quamichan Lake has been a focus for North Cowichan since concerns were raised during a toxic blue-green algae bloom in the summer of 2016.
The management of lakes and other water bodies falls under the provincial government’s jurisdiction, but the municipality now recognizes that solving the nutrient problem at Quamichan Lake will require multi-jurisdictional resources and multiple approaches.
“The Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force, a group of concerned residents, neighbouring local governments, and experts specializing in lake health, recommended doing some work to help us better understand the health of Quamichan Lake,” says Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan.
“With residents and visitors using the lake for recreation, it was important to begin this ground work with the goal of attracting support from higher levels of government.”
In the report to council that was written by David Conway, North Cowichan’s director of engineering, he said that any mitigation strategies carried out by North Cowichan would require a considerable expenditure of municipal funds.
He said, at this point, staff are working with a budget of $25,000 that has been fully committed, and $50,000 in 2018, to consider point sources of pollution to the lake.
Conway said the developers of the nearby Kingsview development have also committed to contributing to a fund on the basis of up to $500 for each lot created for local water-quality initiatives.
But he cautioned that Burnaby spent $20 million over 10 years in Burnaby Lake and has not resolved its algae issues.
Island Health samples recreational water bodies to monitor levels of bacteria and posts warnings on its website.
There is a permanent advisory for Quamichan Lake’s Art Mann Park, located at the end of Indian Road, due to long-standing high levels of bacteria.
“Blue-green algae may be present in Quamichan Lake and the greatest risk of exposure to toxins happens when water is ingested,” said Dr. Shannon Waters, Island Health’s medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley.
“Time-limited skin exposure is a much lower risk. However, as a cautionary measure, we recommended that lake users rinse off after being in contact with the lake water.”
Blue-green algae growth is relatively common in many urban lakes and has been observed on Quamichan Lake since the 1950s.
Eutrophication, the enrichment of an environment like Quamichan Lake with nutrients is a slow and natural process in lakes, but human activity, including land clearing, soil erosion, fertilizer use and failing septic systems, has accelerated this process and has led to the current conditions at Quamichan Lake.