Updated: Recreational activity in the lower Cowichan River not advised

Bacterial levels in the lower Cowichan River have been found to be higher than normal following brief recent rainfall. - Don Bodger
Bacterial levels in the lower Cowichan River have been found to be higher than normal following brief recent rainfall.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Island Health is advising against the use of the lower sections of the Cowichan River for swimming, wading, tubing or other recreational purposes.

"Testing of bacterial levels in the river following rainfall earlier this week has shown higher levels of bacteria than are normally found in the area and that exceed the Canadian guidelines for recreational water quality,'' noted Val Wilson of Island Health Communications in a media release.

"Repeat sampling will be undertaken this weekend, results of which are not expected back before early next week.''

Wilson indicated the river is tested in several locations on a regular basis. It has been tested more frequently as part of the Cowichan River Watershed Board work.

"While the testing has occurred downstream from the Highway 1 bridge, Island Health is advising that no recreation activity occur downstream from the Allenby Road Bridge,'' Wilson stressed.

Abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhea can occur if people swim in water with high levels of bacteria can develop

Cowichan Tribes was working closely with Island Health to notify community members, Wilson added.

Meanwhile, Cowichan watershed member Rodger Hunter, busy with the weekend's annual river cleanup, was concerned about the health notice.

Hunter noted the weekend was the first time he wasn't able to wade into the lower river due to what may be fecal fears.

"It could be storm-sewer stuff, or a (bad pipe) connection. It could be some flushing of things; it could be could be septic (pollution)."

About 50 volunteers — backed by Cowichan Tribes — hauled garbage of all manner from the troubled, near-dry Cowichan suffering ultra-low flows and threatening this year's whole salmon run.

"People are coming back with a bug pile of crap right now," Hunter told the Leader at around 1 p.m. Sunday.

Some of that trash was headed to a dumpster gained from the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and parked near Tribes' Little big House.

Trash tonnage will be reported early this week while frantic conservationists eye what Hunter saw as river flows almost at the lowest level needed for fish, and needs of B.C. flow-licence holders, the Crofton pulp mill.

For river-bacteria information, call Island Health at 250-713-3911.










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