News & Information

News & Updates from the park

14

Oct 2014

WATER QUALITY TESTS CONFIRM KILCONA PONDS ARE MAKING DOGS SICK

Posted by / in Information, News /

The retention ponds in Kilcona’s off-leash area are some of the city’s most contaminated bodies of water, with alarming levels of fecal bacteria. They are not safe for dogs and dragon boaters planning to use the proposed race course are also at risk.

dog drinking water
E. coli bacteria levels at the popular “Dog Launch” on the south canal reached 4600 bacteria per 100 millilitres of water at the end of September — more than 23 times Health Canada’s recommended safe limit for swimmers and more than four times the limit for secondary recreational users, such as canoeists, kayakers and paddle boaters.

E. coli bacteria are associated with fecal contamination and are known to cause gastro-intestinal illnesses – diarrhea and vomiting – and infections of the skin and mucous membranes. According to Health Canada’s standards, when total coliforms are present at any level, water is not safe for human consumption. And while animals can generally tolerate higher bacteria loads than humans, the fecal coliform guideline limit for livestock is 100/100 ml. The safe limit for swimming is 200/100ml and 1000/ml for boating.

According to environmental technologist, Caitlin Doucette, who collected the pond water samples, “The 4600 bacteria cells in100millilitres is very worrisome. It’s definitely an indicator that the water is affecting the dogs with infections. The interesting thing I find is that the E.coli and the total coliforms are the same in the south sample, which likely means that the E.coli is very bad, as it’s the primary bacteria overtaking the water.”

Kilcona Park Dog Club’s Board of Directors had pond water samples analysed at ALS Environmental laboratory to try to determine why so many dogs that use the off-leash dog park are getting sick. In recent years veterinarians in Kilcona’s catchment area have confirmed that many dogs have developed gastrointestinal, urinary tract and skin diseases after swimming in or drinking retention pond water.

Last year, the City of Winnipeg’s Solid Waste Services Division admitted that bacterial levels were high but did not indicate exactly how high. In an email to Al MacDonald, a long-time Knowles Street resident whose property backs onto Kilcona, A/Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Officer, Chris Kozak wrote, “We also do surface water testing on the ponds and compare them to guidelines. The microbiological parameters (total coliforms and E.coli) in the ponds from wildlife is very high, but typical of surface water and may not be suitable for swimming.”

At the end of July KPDC’s Board asked the City’s Water and Waste Department to turn over its Kilcona surface water quality test results. The City initially agreed, however, after compiling the report, the administration refused either to release it or to respond to the Board’s emails and phone calls. The Board appealed to NK Councillor Jeff Browaty and the report was eventually released in mid-September. The City’s report indicated much lower levels of coliforms and E. coli than ALS Environmental found in its samples.

The stalling tactic meant a delay in sampling. Doucette believes bacterial levels are much higher in the summer. “During the summer, it’s that combination of relatively stagnant water, high temperatures for a long period of time and lots of sun. All you need is a small amount of E. coli and good nutrients. As soon as you have those conditions, it’s a perfect storm.”

Kilcona Park Dog Club has launched an educational campaign to raise awareness among dog owners about the health risk, advising people to keep their pets out of the ponds. KPDC’s President has repeatedly asked the City to do more to minimize the danger to dogs by installing the same water quality warning signs that are posted around retention ponds in the on-leash area, since the off-leash is where dogs are at greatest risk of being exposed to contaminated water.

In August, when the bacterial count reached similar levels in Vancouver’s False Creek, the dragon boat society shut down its operations for three weeks after paddlers reported getting rashes from the water. Ann Phelps, manager for Dragon Boat B.C. says, “…there is always the risk, the danger in your mind that you could get sick. You could get an infected eye or something similar to food poisoning or worse.“

The new Kilcona Park Management Plan, approved by City Council in September calls for the creation of a new 600 meter race course for dragon boats, kayaks and canoes in the northwest retention pond.

Further tests for bacteria and other contaminants will be carried out next summer.

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