Lake testing doesn't float city's boat

Proposed new regulations centred around the testing of beach water in Kelowna isn't sitting well at City Hall.

The regulations, expected to be implemented in 2014, would require the city to post an immediate beach advisory if lake water samples reached levels of more than 400 E. coli per 100ml.

Lake water is tested at various beaches in the city once a week during the summer months.

Prior to last year, samples were collected, tested and interpreted by Interior Health.

In 2012, IH downloaded the responsibility of collecting samples onto the city.

Parks manager, Ian Wilson, told City Council Monday there were a few growing pains with the new system.

One of those he says was a delay in communicating those results.

"Getting the results to the city sometimes took two or three days," says Wilson.

Using the new protocol could, according to Wilson, cause confusion if a beach advisory had to be posted and taken down the following day if it was determined the water was fine.

"Currently the city and IH follow the established Canadian protocol for recreational water. We test every week and if we get a number over 200 then we start daily testing," says Wilson.

"Sometimes you get spikes that are unexplained. Sometimes they are due to spring runoff but, even on the same beach, you may have a high number at one end of the beach and a low number at the other end of the beach."

Wilson says a delay of a few days in getting results could mean the city is receiving outdated information.

He says the city is also not convinced the new regulations will significantly improve public health.

"What we have been told is at 200, the risk is that 1 percent of the population might get stomach upset or diarrhea. At 400 it goes from 1 per cent to 1.2 percent."

Wilson adds that Kelowna has never had to post a beach water advisory in the past 15 years due to bacteria.

City Council agreed to pass on its concerns to SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association), and if accepted, have them forwarded to UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities).

Staff are also planning to write letters to the local health authority, the province and federal government with their concerns.

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