Nicholson Water Quality Monitoring

Nitrates and your health
  • Nitrates are a chemical compound that can naturally occur in groundwater, but can be elevated through human land use activities.
  • Nitrates above the maximum allowable concentration can pose a health risk, especially to pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune systems.
  • Anyone concerned about the safety of their well water quality should get their well tested regularly and use a safe alternate source for drinking, especially for the preparation of baby formula.
  • Boiling the water will not remove the nitrates from the water.
  • If your well water is high in nitrates, there are several options to consider, including treatment to remove the nitrates or seeking out an safe alternate supply.
  • More information is available at Health Link BC's Nitrate in Well Water Health File.

Due to renewed concerns about fluctuating levels of nitrites and biological contaminants, the CSRD partnered with Interior Health on a one-year water quality monitoring program in 2019. 

Ecoscape Environmental Consultants Ltd. was hired by the CSRD to conduct the 2019 monitoring and provide related summary documents. It should be noted that nitrates and coliform bacteria continue to be observed above naturally occurring levels within the Nicholson Aquifer, at times being measured greater than the maximum allowable concentration.

The CSRD is working closely with Interior Health to monitor this issue. We want residents to be informed of water quality sampling information so they can be educated about the results and any potential effects these levels could have on themselves and their families.

Update: The 2019 groundwater sampling program has been completed and a summary of results, conclusions and recommendations are now available at the link below.

2019 Groundwater Monitoring Summary

Next Steps

The CSRD is currently working with engineering services to provide cost estimates for a community system and results will also be shared with residents, by letter, in the spring of 2020.  The letter will detail the process for residents of the area to advance a community water system, continued monitoring of the aquifer or a public meeting.  The CSRD continues to work towards completing the steps outlined in the “Nicholson Aquifer Water Quality Policy” which was adopted at the August 2019 Board meeting.

History

As a result of monitoring studies conducted on the Nicholson Aquifer between 2005 and 2013, it became clear that the groundwater in the aquifer is being impacted by septic fields in the area. This is a concern from a health and environmental perspective, both for the aquifer itself and for those who are using wells as a source for drinking water. 

Residents of the area were informed of the impacts from the on-site septic systems at a public meeting held October 29, 2014 and through a letter from the CSRD, however, there was minimal public support for taking further action towards improving the water quality. With a lack of public support for the creation of a service area to fund the costs of continued study, the groundwater monitoring program was discontinued. 

In 2017, nitrate levels at the Nicholson Elementary School measured above the maximum allowable concentration as set out in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. 

This has resulted in Interior Health issuing a "Do Not Consume" Advisory for the Nicholson Elementary School and a requirement for the school to monitor the nitrate levels within their domestic well on a monthly basis. Since that time, data has indicated nitrate values generally increase above the maximum allowable concentration at the start of the school year and then decrease naturally with more water in the ground during spring freshet.

A memorandum from Western Water Associates dated February 7, 2019 states ongoing concerns about contamination of the water in the Nicholson aquifer.

"Considering the monitoring program results to-date and the hydrogeological setting, all drinking water wells across the site should be considered at risk for fecal contamination. It is possible that any well at the site could have one or more exceedances of E.coli or other septic-related drinking water contaminants at some point during its lifespan."

In February 2019, CSRD Directors agreed to fund a $10,000 contribution to a one-year monitoring program, with the CSRD administering its delivery and sharing results with the community. Interior Health will be contributing $5,000 towards project costs. 

The CSRD sent a letter to residents of the affected area to provide them with this information regarding the monitoring program.

View letter here

 

Previous Groundwater Testing Results

More information on previous groundwater monitoring efforts is available at the tabs below.

Nicholson Groundwater Final Report 2014
Nicholson Groundwater Monitoring Memo 2014
Nicholson Groundwater Final Report 2013
Nicholson Groundwater Final Report 2012