Lake preservation remains priority 0
Even when its blanketed by ice and snow, the state of the water quality in Lacombe Lake is never far from the minds of some residents.
The Lacombe Lake Preservation Association gathered for their first meeting of the New Year to discuss their future involvement in preserving the lake and how best to make their voices heard.
Made up of landowners on and around the lake, the association came together after the issue of water quality in Lacombe Lake was brought into the spotlight in 2008, and after independent testing revealed poor water quality.
"The lake's health has fluctuated in the years past," Lloyd Alexander, one of the association's key players and the man behind the charge to save the lake, told the group last Friday. "Left to its own devices it may recover but we've had one lot of testing done and we need to do it again."
Alexander presented the idea of pursuing grant funding to use towards further lake testing to the group - an idea that was readily accepted by those gathered.
Working with Aquality Environmental Consulting Ltd., the same firm that conducted testing on the lake in 2008, Alexander hopes to have them complete another eight tests on the water and have those analyzed results compared to the previous samples.
Such an undertaking carried a price tag of about $2,500.
"It's important that this lake be looked after," said Alexander, who has called a house on the lake's eastern shore home for the past 50 years.
During open water months, Lacombe County has been conducting water quality testing on the lake since committing to doing so in 2008, after agreeing to halt the diversion of water from Whelp Creek, which flowed into the lake at the north end.
Environmental and protective services manager with the county, Keith Boras, said the county would continue to test the water on an on-going basis in order to compile some background on the quality of the lake's water.
While the results have not been made public, Boras previously told the Globe "the results have not offered anything out of the ordinary."
The original Aquality tests commissioned by Alexander however revealed high levels of contaminants.
Alexander's concern was that contaminated water from the creek, which swells each spring with run-off from the various farmlands it crosses, was destroying the health of the lake as well, and he commissioned the study which sampled Lacombe Lake in four places, as well as drawing water samples from Whelp Creek.
Analyses of Aquality's tests showed that the concentrations of total bacteria and fecal coli forms in the creek exceed the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) Irrigation Guidelines. The coli forms referred to in that report, encompass a broad class of bacteria found in human and animal wastes. The study measured total coli forms, which includes E. coli, which is capable of causing human illness if ingested.
Total coli form concentrations in the creek were 3,600 colony-forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters (mL), well above the irrigation guideline of 1,000 CFU/100 mL. Fecal coli form counts were 210 CFU/100 mL, more than double the irrigation standard of 100 CFU/mL set by the CCME. In the lake, total coli form concentrations of nine CFU/100 mL were found, along with fecal coli form concentrations of four CFU/100 mL. Also, the phosphorous, nitrogen and total dissolved solid concentrations exceeded protection of wildlife guidelines.
While Alexander and other residents said the results proved what they had feared, and had been saying all along, Alberta Environment said at the time the data revealed "nothing unexpected."
County officials cried foul at the time of year when testing was conducted, following the spring melt, disputing that it was done at the worst time possible to generate the worst results.
Following months of discussion and pressure from local residents concerned about the lake, the county agreed to discontinue the diversion of Whelp Creek into the lake until results were gathered to provide a background on the lake's health.
The county, which holds a license to divert water, would typically be subject to a license review for not using their right to divert water, but Alberta Environment has given them a grace period until more data on the lake and the creek can be gathered.
Alexander and the association want to see whether the lake has improved since diversion of the creek was halted.
"I don't think that creek should be going into the lake," Alexander said. "So we'll follow up on the testing and see if it's getting any better."