Renewed concerns about fluctuating levels of nitrites and biological contaminants has prompted the CSRD to partner with Interior Health on a water quality monitoring program which will be starting in May 2019. Nitrates 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 nitrate sampling information so they can be educated about the results and any potential effects these levels could have on themselves and their families. We have sent a letter to residents of the affected area to provide them with this information.
Results from the groundwater samples in May 2019 are now available.
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 both from a health and environmental concern for both 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.
Plans for 2019 and beyond
Following the collection of the 2019 data, the CSRD will meet with Interior Health to discuss options for the continuation of the monitoring program. The CSRD intends on using the results of the 2019 sampling study to inform residents of the quality of its groundwater.
The CSRD will also be reviewing its role in the ongoing monitoring of the aquifer, including the options for establishing monitoring bylaws and the development of a policy regarding continued checking of the groundwater.
More information on previous groundwater monitoring efforts is available at the tabs below.