Water samples from Shuswap spill sent to lab; health authority believes risk to be low

Shuswap Lake
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

SHUSWAP - While health officials believe there is little risk to public safety, an advisory remains in effect on Shuswap Lake pending the results of government tests.

Precautions were taken last week after reports of contaminated water seeping into Shuswap Lake from the Canoe Forest Products plywood plant. The City of Salmon Arm shut off its water intake and the Interior Health Authority advised people not to use the water, or to swim, boat or fish near the affected area.

A week later, the health authority is still asking the public to take precautions until they know for sure the water is safe.

Michaela Swan, with Interior Health, says an advisory asking people to avoid recreational use within 100 metres of the log booms in the affected area remains in effect. The City of Salmon Arm received the go ahead to turn its lake intake back on March 16, however anyone with a private intake into the lake in the affected area is advised not to use the water.

“The advisory will remain until lab results are obtained to rule out any potential health risks, and those tend to take some time,” Swan says.

Despite the advisory, Interior Health feels there is a very low risk to human health, Swan says.

The Ministry of Environment confirmed in an email today, March 22, that water samples from the lake are now being tested at a lab but didn’t say when the results are expected.

According to the statement, the company must submit a notice of completion for remediation to the ministry within 30 days of completion of the work.

The Ministry said the Conservation Service and Department of Fisheries and Oceans is assisting in the spill investigation, but stated additional questions should be directed to Environment Canada, the lead agency on the file.

A response from Environment Canada was not provided by deadline. An earlier statement released March 16 stated: “Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Enforcement Branch has been advised of the incident at Shuswap Lake. We are following up and working in conjunction with our partners.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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