Reports of contaminated water concerns county

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Reports of fecal coliform contaminating drinking water in the West Prairie River in early June has drawn concern from Big Lakes County.

At its regular meeting July 25, council tabled a decision to partner with the Lesser Slave Watershed Council to hold an information session proposed for Aug. 23.

“I have a lot of questions [to be answered] before we have an information session,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

He and CAO Roy Brideau asked exactly where the testing was done that showed contaminated water in the Banana Belt area on June 4.

Matthews says council plans to meet with the LSWC before discussing the issue further at an upcoming council meeting.

Council and staff are most concerned that results of high fecal coliform counts in the river were not reported immediately to the county by the watershed council.

The West Prairie River provides the water supply for the town.

“When we were informed, the [affected] water had long gone,” Brideau says.

“We need to sit down with the watershed council to get more information.”

He says he would have appreciated the county receiving the results sooner.

“We do have a responsibility to protect and inform our residents,” Brideau says.

He provided information about the contaminated water in a report to council.

“The Lesser Slave Watershed Council water quality program has indicated higher-than- average fecal coliform counts in the West Prairie River by Banana Belt and the West Prairie River in High Prairie,” reads a report from Brideau.

“Results on June 4 showed record high counts of 810 fecal coliform in Banana Belt and 330 in High Prairie.”

Samples on June 18 indicated levels have dropped but are still elevated.

“When the water was retested, the count levels had dropped well below the 200 count and there was no concern,” Brideau says.

He notes the drinking supply in the Town of High Prairie was not affected by the contamination,

Other rivers in the region are also at risk and also need attention, says Matthews.

“Everyone on any local river should be concerned,” he says.

“This is not just a West Prairie River problem, but also an issue for East Prairie River, Driftpile River and Heart River.

“We should have a meeting about those rivers.”

The county desires to have extensive information about the contamination issue in the West Prairie River to provide to the public.

“We want to present clear and concise information about what causes fecal coliform in water, the harm to human and livestock health and how we can reduce the risk in surface water contamination,” Brideau says.

During the session, the LSWC plans to present the results, fecal coliform and health, best management practices to reduce that type of contamination, an opportunities to work with partners in workshops.


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