The metallic taste and odour some customers who are using Shawnigan Lake’s North water system are reportedly experiencing is likely the result of algae blooms, according to a statement from the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The statement said the CVRD’s engineering services department has received a number of inquiries from customers of the water system, whose water originates from Shawnigan Lake, and that many similar concerns have been expressed to other water utilities serving the Shawnigan Lake area and to Island Health.
“This type of problem has come up a number of times in summers in the past and has been determined to be the result of an algae bloom in the lake water,” the statement said.
“A water sample has been taken by CVRD staff and sent to a lab for analysis. This will confirm the algae species involved. Results are expected in about a week.”
The statement said that in prior summers, the primary algae present has been a brown algae which does not present any risk to health.
It said some customers have inquired whether the algae could be blue-green algae which may be toxic.
“Blue-green algae is favoured where the water is warm, shallow and rich in nutrients; particularly phosphorus,” the statement said.
“Due to the high level of replacement of existing water with runoff occurring in Shawnigan Lake, these conditions are not prevalent. In the past, lab testing of samples have shown only very low levels of blue-green algae constituting no risk to human health. So there is nothing to indicate the algae to be blue-green algae. However, this is expected to be confirmed by the lab testing which will be made publicly available on our website and shared with Island Health.”
The statement said there is no simple treatment, such as boiling or filtering, that would remove the toxins if the algae were blue-green algae.
“The only precaution would be to not drink the water until testing results are available,” the statement said.
“Should you have any further questions, please call the Engineering Services Department at 250-746-2530.”