LSWC water quality report available

A map of all the water quality testing spots used by the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed council. Photo courtesy of Alberta Environment and Parks.

Pearl Lorentzen
For South Peace News

Last summer, the Lesser Slave Watershed Council finished the third of five years of water quality testing. As there is a lot of data collected from the streams, the report on the most recent water numbers became available in early April.

LSWC did not monitor the Lesser Slave River, says council executive director Meghan Payne, because until 2019 it was monitored by the provincial government. In the future, depending on funding, LSWC would like to add sampling.

The report is on the LSWC’s website under Projects, along with water quality reports from 2010, 2017, and 2018.

In the 2020 season, LSWC will be testing for minerals on three new streams: the West Prairie, Driftpile, and East Prairie rivers.

Since 2017, the council has tested for metals on the Swan River. The testing, in partnership with the Swan River First Nation, is because of concerns to do with the Swan Hills Hazardous Waste Treatment Plant which is upstream of the river in the Swan Hills.

Payne says the new sites will provide a comparison for the Swan River data. There is data from 2010 for all three sites.

As well as Indigenous partners, LSWC works with industry and municipalities. The basic water monitoring is funded by a lumber mill, Vanderwell. An oilfield company, Plains Midstream, is funding the new metal tests.

LSWC is also partnering with Big Lakes County to identify what type of fecal coliform bacteria is in the West Prairie River. The river is the source water for the Town of High Prairie and part of Big Lakes County’s drinking water.

The report says, “Fecal Coliform Bacteria [FCB] are specific to the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals [e.g., cattle, birds, pets, etc.] and humans and are thus a more specific test for animal waste or sewage contamination.”

The 2019 testing showed this was not caused by humans, says the report. However, much of the bacteria were from ruminants.

In 2020, the tests will be to determine if these ruminants are cattle, moose, or deer, says Payne. In this area, there are more cattle than people. If the bacteria is from cattle, LSWC and the Big Lakes Ag Service Board will work with producers.

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