Nova Scotia

New study aims to uncover source of E. coli contamination in First Lake

Kinsmen Beach in Lower Sackville, N.S., is often closed due to fecal bacteria and is no longer tested by the municipality.

Kinsmen Beach is often closed due to fecal bacteria and is no longer tested by the municipality

A sign warns people that Kinsmen Beach at First Lake in Lower Sackville, N.S., is unsupervised and the water quality is not tested. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Is it poop from humans, dogs, waterfowl or another source that keeps fouling the waters of First Lake in Lower Sackville, N.S.?

That's one of the questions an upcoming study will tackle.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is seeking a company to conduct a study to figure out how much fecal bacteria is in the lake and where it's coming from, as well as to make recommendations on how to decrease the pollution.

First Lake is home to Kinsmen Beach, a popular swimming spot. However, the beach has been plagued with closures over the past several years due to high bacterial levels.

Between 2010 and 2018, the beach was closed on average for roughly half the season, or 30 of the 62 days a municipal lifeguard was scheduled to work at the site. It was closed for the entirety of the 2017 season.

Kinsmen Beach has had frequent closures during the swimming season in recent years due to high fecal bacteria levels. The municipality wants to find out the source of the pollution. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

In 2020, Kinsmen Beach was removed from the HRM's beach supervision program because of the E. coli levels and frequent closures, so no lifeguards have been monitoring the swimming area. However, residents continue to use it, even though it's not supervised and not tested by the municipality for bacteria.

First Lake is fed by a spring, but some water enters through other sources.

The study will consider potential pollution sources including nearby bodies of water such as Second Lake and Rocky Lake, storm water that drains into the lake from Glendale Drive, the wastewater pumping station, sanitary sewage and storm sewer outfall locations and municipal buildings.

The manager of the Sackawa Canoe Club, which is based at First Lake, said he's glad to hear the municipality is taking action.

"I think it's a good thing that they're trying to figure out what's causing it, because obviously we'd like to have our lake as clean as possible and try to come up with a solution for it," said Tyler Laidlaw.

Leaves float in the water of First Lake in Lower Sackville, N.S. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

He said since the club's members are in boats rather than directly in the water, the bacteria levels generally don't affect the canoe club's operations.

The club has an outdoor shower so people can rinse off if they do go in the water.

But Laidlaw said if the lake has a reputation for being unclean, it could affect recruitment to the club.

"If people think our lake is dirty and it's gross to be in for water activities, it doesn't help us when it comes to membership," he said. "If you're signing your kid up for a canoe club, you don't want to hear that the lake's gross that they're going to be in all summer."

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