Cold Lake looking for clarity on AHS testing on the lake

Cold Lake city council is feeling a little frustrated by the continued Alberta Health Services fecal matter warning on Cold Lake that discourages swimming in the lake and is looking for clarity on how AHS arrives at these warnings.

During last Tuesday’s council meeting, discussion about how AHS arrives at their results became the ire of councillor Bob Buckle and others.

The question became: how is a lake that size under a fecal matter warning for over a month?

“His beef is that its a massive body of water, Alberta’s seventh largest lake and if we have problems on Cold Lake, imagine all these other lakes. Bob and all of council and the community is saying ‘really?’” said Mayor Craig Copeland on The Morning After.

AHS arrives at their results by taking the average of what’s in the water for 30 days, said CAO Kevin Nagoya.

So city council is concerned that if they have a higher test one week, it could throw them over the average of what’s deemed acceptable in the water for a month at a time.

Although it was insinuated that the AHS’ testing methods have changed, AHS Senior Communications Advisor, Logan Clow, clarified in an email that their testing methods have not changed and that they test weekly.

“While we understand the community’s concerns about the water quality at Kinosoo Beach, AHS follows recreational water quality benchmarks when monitoring open water at recreation areas (beaches and lakes) throughout Alberta. This benchmark has been established to measure safe water quality and to protect the public’s health,” said Clow in the email.

“The latest weekly test results for Kinosoo Beach showed unsatisfactory fecal contamination that have exceeded benchmark thresholds. Once water levels are deemed safe, AHS will rescind the health advisory, and advisory signs will be taken down at the recreation area.”

Mayor Copeland said he’d like to see changes and to work more with AHS on how they conduct tests.

“The test results from AHS I think they need to be looked at hard. There has to be a better sampling of the water and maybe go out from the deeper water where the kids are actually swimming than the very shallow,” said Copeland.

The City installed bird deterrents at Kinosoo Beach earlier this week to try and limit the waterfowl going into the lake, but the test indicators showed that there were canine and human markers found in the tests.

“We do have some issues there, there is no doubt about it. We are finding some fecal sample markers in the water analysis…human markers, feces is in the sample and, of course, the canines. How that is all getting into the lake, it is going to happen when people are swimming, but it’s unfortunate. I think it speaks to the testing. It’s so stringent, should it be more relaxed?” said Copeland.

Alberta Health Services warns that gastrointestinal illness may result from ingestion of the water at Kinosoo Beach. Also the possibility of skin, ear and eye infections with water contact.

The water quality advisory was put in place on July 10 and is still in effect.