Cowichan River water-quality advisory lifted

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

The water quality advisory for recreational use on the lower Cowichan River has been rescinded.

The advisory was put in place Saturday for the area of the Cowichan River downstream from the Allenby Road bridge to the mouth of the river — about a six-kilometre stretch — after testing found higher levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

Paul Hasselback, Island Health's medical health officer, said that bacteria likely came from an animal source, perhaps after storm-sewer flushing during recent local rain.

According to Val Wilson of IH Communications, samples of the river taken on Monday demonstrated it had returned to its usual excellent river water quality and considered acceptable for recreational purposes.

Fish caught in the river during the advisory are safe to consume following complete cleaning and cooking, Wilson added.

The Cowichan River has been subjected to drought conditions for the past few months.

"As is typical of river systems, the significant rainfall occurring mid-week last week likely caused washing of the land adjacent to the river and its tributaries and through storm-water returns that may have carried high concentrations of bacteria into the main river,'' Wilson indicated.

"Continuous flows through wastewater treatment plants are frequently tested and are not subject to the same rainfall effect. Testing at the J.U.B. (Joint Utilities Board sewage) treatment facility continued to demonstrate acceptable water quality and not the cause of the increase in bacteria which was highest upstream from the J.U.B. effluent return to the river.''

Hasselback told the News Leader Pictorial Wednesday there was no evidence of a breach in the sewage-plant system that may have dumped bacteria into the sensitive river.

The fecal-coliform bacteria was found using routine river testing.

"It's bacteria normally found in intestines. It's more likely from animals than humans," he said.

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