Water Quality Committee Report 2015

Water Quality Committee Report Spring 2011

Water Quality Committee Report

Spring 2011

Annual Lake Water Test Results

The water quality committee takes two water samples for testing of nutrient levels (as indicated by the phosphorous level) through the Lake Partnership Program sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Environment. The table below presents the two samples each year from the middle of Golden Lake and are expressed as total phosphorus (TP) in micrograms per litre. A level of less than 10µg/L is considered a low nutrient count, an indicator of good water quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test Date TP Sample#1 TP Sample#2 TP Average
May 28, 2003 8.2 9.6 8.9
August 14, 2004 8.7 9.2 9.15
May 25, 2008 8.3 8.6 8.45
May 06, 2009 9.2 8.0 8.6
May 05, 2010 9.2 11.6 10.4
May 29, 2011 9.6 9.2 9.4

Special Lake, Creek and River Test Program

To further investigate sources of high phosphorous (P) concentrations, especially in Brennans Creek, Jack Blair, chair of GLPOA’s water quality committee, took several samples in Brennans Creek at the mill in old Killaloe, in the centre of Killaloe and downstream of Killaloe. He also took samples from the Bonnechere River near Deacon and in the centre of the lake. The table below shows the results in micrograms per litre (µg/L).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location Date TP
Centre of Golden Lake Aug. 31/11 6
Bonnechere R. #1 Aug. 31/11 3
Bonnechere R. #2 Aug. 31/11 2
Brennans C. below Kill. Aug. 31/11 21
Brennans C. in Killaloe Sep. 6/11 30
Brennans C. Old Kill. Sep. 6/11 32

These test results confirm the findings from the previous year that showed far higher P concentrations in Brennans Creek than in the lake or the Bonnechere River. Phosphorous is a nutrient that encourages plant growth, and high concentrations promote algae blooms. Anyone who has traveled up Brennans Creek towards Killaloe would have seen evidence of algae growth in the water. Interestingly, the concentrations are highest the further upstream the sample is taken. The water quality committee does not yet have an authoritative explanation for these results, but the investigation continues. It would appear, however, that the Village of Killaloe and its sewage treatment plant are not the source of high P concentrations in the Creek, which had been a concern before testing began. The important feature of this work is the building of a data base of yearly test results to see any trends and to form the basis of expert analysis.

Water Clarity Test Results

Water clarity is another indicator of quality. Greater clarity and low phosphorous concentrations are the usual indicators of good water quality. Clarity is tested by lowering a disk painted with contrasting colors into the water. When the disk is no longer visible as it is lowered, a depth reading is taken from the marked rope.

A secchi disk is a metal or plastic weighted disk painted in contrasting colors.
The water quality committee tested water clarity for the first time last summer. The average of several Secchi readings was 13 feet, which is considered moderate clarity. Only with more testing will we begin to see trends in water clarity.
The table below shows how to interpret phosphorous and Secchi test results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Description Classification
TP:< 10 ug /L Secchi:> 16 ft. Clear water with very low levels of nutrients. Oligotrophic
TP: 10 to 20 ug/L Secchi: 10-16 ft. Moderately clear water with moderate levels of nutrients. Mesotrophic
TP:> 20 ug/L Secchi:< 10 ft. Very low water clarity and high levels of nutrients. Eutrophic

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Water Quality Committee Report Spring 2010

Water Quality Committee Report

Spring 2010

Annual Lake Water Test Results

The water quality committee has organized the annual testing of nutrient levels (as indicated by the concentration of phosphorous) through the Lake Partnership Program sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Environment. The testing is free, and since so many other lake organizations, the results allow comparisons with hundreds of other lakes. Phosphorus gets into the water mainly from agricultural runoff and from household use of detergents (phosphates) that find their way into the water through septic system leaking and water treatment plant outflow. The table below presents the two samples each year from the middle of Golden Lake and are expressed as total phosphorus (TP) in micrograms per litre.

Test Date TP Sample#1 TP Sample#2
May 28, 2003 8.2 9.6
August 14, 2004 8.7 9.2
May 25, 2008 8.3 8.6
May 06, 2009 9.2 8.0

A level of less than 10 /L is considered a low nutrient count. You can see the results for many Ontario lakes at the Lake Partnership web site and will notice that Golden Lake’s results are at the low end of the average phosphorus concentrations.

Special Brennans Creek Test Program

Although water quality in the Lake is fine, there have been questions since GLPOA was formed about the algae blooms at the mouth of Brennans Creek at the west end of Golden Lake. Also mentioned are sludge deposits along the sandy shore at Harrington Road, which is close to the mouth of Brennans. Attention has focused on the Killaloe sewage treatment plant, which discharges into Brennans about one kilometer upstream of the mouth and which, according to the plant’s own reports, releases an average of 0.06 kilograms (about two ounces) of phosphorous each day into the Creek.

To investigate those concerns the water quality committee plans an intensive series of tests in Brennans Creek this summer. Two water samples will be taken, one upstream and one downstream of the treatment plant, to determine two things: first, the phosphorous concentration in the Creek compared to the Lake, and second, to see how much the plant discharge affects total phosphorous concentration. Two water samples will be taken and tested in each of the four months of the summer. The results should give us a good profile of phosphorous concentrations in Brennans Creek under various dilution conditions, and hopefully provide insights into the impact on water quality of the Killaloe sewage treatment plant.

You will find the results of this test program posted here as they become available.

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Water Quality Committee Report Spring 2009

Water Quality Committee Report

Spring 2009

Water quality can be evaluated in a number of ways, including clarity and visual quality, odour, algae growth, bacterial concentrations (e-coli is a key one) and nutrient levels. Measures of clarity and other visual indicators tend to be done at specific locations on a lake or river. Water bodies all contain bacteria like e-coli, but their concentrations tend to be acceptably low, although levels can be higher at points of agricultural runoff. The most commonly used measure of water quality is nutrient levels as indicated by phosphorous concentrations. Phosphorus gets into the water mainly from agricultural runoff and from household use of detergents (phosphates) that find their way into the water through septic system leaching and water treatment plant effluent. High nutrient levels are revealed by excessive algae growth.

The water quality committee has organized the annual testing of nutrient levels through the Lake Partnership Program sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Environment. The testing is free, and since so many other lake organizations around the province participate, the results allow comparisons. The nutrient levels (phosphorous) in samples taken in the centre of Golden Lake in May, 2008 were very close to results in the 2003 and 2004 testing. Each year two samples are taken from a location in the centre of the lake away from any inflow areas. In the table below the two samples each year are expressed as total phosphorus (TP) in micrograms per litre.

Test Date TP Sample #1 TP Sample #2
May 28, 2003 8.2 9.6
August 14, 2004 8.7 9.2
May 25, 2008 8.3 8.6

A level below 10 is considered a low nutrient count. You can see the results for many Ontario lakes at the Lake Partnership web site and will notice that Golden Lake’s results are at the low end of the average phosphorus concentrations. So far, all indications are that the water in Golden Lake is of good quality.

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Water Quality Committee Report

Water Quality Committee Report

Fall 2008

The Water Quality Committee was mandated by the Golden Lake Property Owners Association in 2007 to look into the quality of water in Golden Lake. The first step the committee took was to search for existing information.

After speaking with the municipalities and the Renfrew County Health Unit, members established that testing for ecoli was done regularly only where paid swimming lessons were being given. No beaches have been closed due to poor water quality.

We located and read the Bonnechere River Water Project Report (February 2006) which gives test results for water at several locations along the Bonnechere watershed. Water was tested quarterly at the Golden Lake Bridge and then at the Eganville Beach between 1999 and 2001. Water quality appears to be relatively good according to the report. Water was tested for Nitrates/Nitrite, Phosphorus, suspended solids, E Coli and Dissolved Oxygen. Levels of pollutants are very close at the two sites. The impact of lake development on water quality was emphasized in the report.

Committee member Steve Munger pointed us to the lake Partnership Program, which is a volunteer based water quality monitoring program run in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment. This program monitors phosphorus levels. Volunteers take water samples in May and then monthly for six months, in sensitive lakes.

The committee met via email over the winter and discussed information received from the Lake Partnership Program, and from the Bonnechere River Watershed Project. Bev Clark of the Lake Partnership program said that the Kingston Office of the Ministry of the Environment acted as a lake partner for Golden Lake in 2003-2004 as part of the assessment of Renfrew County lakes. Phosphorous levels were found to be well below the acceptable level.

The GLPOA water quality committee met April 09 at the Golden Sands. Committee members agreed to have ALS Laboratory Group conduct tests on Golden Lake water for phosphorous, ecoli and nitrates over the 2008 summer. Volunteers would collect samples from three locations once a month over the summer, and the samples would be sent to the ALS labs by courier.

After speaking again with Bev Clark at the Ministry of the Environment, we were advised that such an approach would be a waste of both time and money, and that the level of phosphorous is an excellent marker as to water quality. He pointed out that the Lake Partnership Program works with lake associations to test for phosphorous levels at no cost. He said too that testing for ecoli is of no use because there is always ecoli in the water, and that it moves around according to where the wildlife is at any given time.

When the MOE report, Water Quality Management of Cold water Lakes, County of Renfrew, became available we reviewed the information about Golden Lake.

We became part of the Lake Partnership program sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment, and FOCA, and tested the water on the east side of Golden Lake in May, 2008. Lakes on the Canadian Shield are tested only once a year. The results of the samples taken in May were 8.3 and 8.6 micrograms per litre, very close to results in the 2003-2004 testing. A count below 10 is considered a low nutrient count, and according to Anna Desellas of the Lake Partnership Program. On a lake as developed as Golden Lake, anything below 10 is very good. The committee agreed to continue testing phosphorous levels annually.

The committee also reviewed several reports on cormorants, including a Ministry of Natural Resources report that can be accessed here. The MNR report pointed out that cormorants are a species native to Ontario and cites reports that indicate that on Lake Erie the cormorants eat fewer fish than do merganser ducks. The report suggests that the cormorant population is high because the cormorants are eating so well wintering over at the catfish farms in Mississippi. The report also indicates that cormorant nesting can result in damage to vegetation.

The committee concluded that public education about the impact of human development on the lake was of paramount importance. The committee also agreed to do further research about the impact of cormorants.

Report by Kathy Lampi
September 10, 2008

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Water Quality Committee Report Spring 2008

Water Quality Committee Report Spring 2008

Proposed water quality testing program

After meeting by email over the winter, the GLPOA water quality committee got together on April 9 at the Sands on Golden Lake. Committee members agreed to work with the Lakes Partnership program managed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment to test levels of phosphorous in the Lake. Phosphorous levels are a good indication of the impact that shoreline development may have on water quality, according to the Ministry.

Bev Clark of the Lake Partnership program said that the Kingston Office of the Ministry of Environment acted as a lake partner for Golden Lake in 2003-2004 as part of the assessment of Renfrew County lakes. Phosphorous levels were found to be well below the upper limit of acceptability at that time. The Water Quality Committee is examining the Water Quality Management Report, which reports on Golden Lake water chemistry.

The report emphasized the importance of public education in preserving water quality in Ontario lakes: “Land owners are in the best position to implement best management practices, such as ensuring they have a properly functioning septic systems, provision of adequate setbacks in accordance with the official plan and zoning bylaw requirements, maintenance of vegetation and tree cover in setback buffer and the elimination of pesticide and fertilizer applications near lakes.” The committee continues to discuss the ways it can help to inform GLPOA members on steps they can take to maintain and enhance water quality in the Lake and River.

GLPOA members attend FOCA seminar in Toronto

Two members of the Water Quality Committee, Gail McPhee and Chair Kathy Lampi, attended a day-long seminar in Toronto April 5 dealing with the importance of plans for lake development and impending legislation about mandatory septic tank re-inspections.

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations has received funding from Trillium to design a template for members who want to create lake plans for a specific area. The template, which will be available the summer of 2009, was the topic of the morning workshop. It can be used as a tool to help rate payers and municipalities design development plans for lake areas. FOCA presenters emphasized the importance of developing a plan as a proactive involvement in the community, rather than waiting for the proposal of some undesired development to trigger opposition. This template will make the development of lake plans, without using highly-paid consultants, much easier, according to FOCA.

The afternoon workshop focused on Ontario’s Clear Water Act, and implications for rural areas. The Clear Water Act was passed October 2006 as a response to the Walkerton Report. It is a recognition of the need to protect drinking water at the source, not just the tap. Source protection will be based on watershed boundaries; local source protection committees will be created. First steps involve mandatory regular re-inspection of those septic systems located close to sources of municipal water. A septic tank inspector from Mississippi Valley Conservation, Jamie Saunders emphasized that proper use and maintenance of a septic tank is more important than its age in assuring effectiveness of the system. Mr. Saunders said that mandatory inspections for general private systems will likely not come into effect until 2012, at the earliest.

Information about ground water protection can be found at www.thewaterhole.ca and at www.wellwise.ca.

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Special Brennans Creek Water Quality Testing Program

Special Brennans Creek Water Quality Testing Program

September 17, 2010

Although water quality in the Lake is reasonably good, there have been questions since GLPOA was formed about the algae blooms at the mouth of Brennans Creek at the west end of Golden Lake. Also mentioned are sludge deposits along the sandy shore at Harrington Road, which is close to the mouth of Brennans. Attention has focused on the Killaloe sewage treatment plant, which discharges into Brennans about one kilometre upstream of the mouth and which, according to the plant’s own reports, releases an average of 0.06 kilograms (about two ounces) of phosphorous each day into the Creek.

To investigate those concerns the water quality committee designed an intensive series of tests in Brennans Creek in the summer of 2010. Two water samples were taken, one upstream and one downstream of the treatment plant outflow, to determine two things: first, the phosphorous concentration in the Creek compared to the Lake, and second, to see how much the plant discharge affects total phosphorous concentration. Two water samples were taken and tested in each of the four months of the summer. The results have given us a good profile of phosphorous concentrations in Brennans Creek under various dilution conditions, and provide insights into the impact on water quality of the Killaloe sewage treatment plant.

Below are the results of the complete series of tests, presented in units micrograms of total phosphorous (TPH) per litre of water (µg/L). We note that the TPH concentrations in Brennans are considerably higher than concentrations in the middle of the lake, which are consistently under 10µg/L. We also note that the concentrations upstream of the sewage treatment plant outflow are very close to those downstream near the mouth of the Creek.

TPH Upstream TPH Downstream
May 25, 2010 18.4 /L 18.4 /L
July 5, 2010 29.8 /L 27.9 /L
August 2, 2010 26.6 /L 28.1 /L
September 7, 2010 38.0 /L 37.5 /L

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A Water Quality Tour of Golden Lake

A Water Quality Tour of Golden Lake

On August 13, 2010, eight GLPOA members toured Golden Lake with two members of the River Watch program. The Bonnechere River Watershed Project (BRWP) launched the River Watch program in 2009 with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The purpose was to assess the health of the Bonnechere River Watershed, create a baseline of data for comparison in future efforts, and to identify areas of concern so that possible remedial actions can be recommended.

Below is an explanation of water chemistry taken from BRWP River Watch information; a table showing the results of testing during the tour; and a note from Jessica Danard, the River Watch coordinator, with a commentary on what was learned on the tour.


Water Chemistry In Brief

Temperature:

We all know that water temperature varies by season and time of day, but it can also tell us about the health of the lake. Elevated temperatures can indicate more microbial activity in the water, which could suggest high nutrient inputs (sewage, fertilizer, etc). This parameter acts as a diagnostic tool for water chemistry and benthic macro-invertebrates'(BMI) studies. BMI are tiny creatures that live in the bottom mud. Their type, number and health reflects water quality.

pH:

Refers to the acidity of the water. Natural factors such as bottom type and bank vegetation can impact the pH in a water body. Unnatural factors such as acid rain or pollution run-off can also affect pH levels. Very high or very low pH levels may be cause for concern, as it can affect life within the lake, or even cause skin or eye irritation for swimmers. A pH in the range of 6.5 8.5 is considered to be safe.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO):

This measurement refers to the amount of oxygen available in the water. Natural activities will cause the DO levels of a lake to fluctuate on a regular basis. Photosynthesis from aquatic plants and aeration from water turbulence increase DO levels, whereas bacterial decomposition of dead organic matter and the breathing of organisms reduce the level of DO. When a system is imbalanced, due to elevated temperatures or chemical inputs, oxygen levels can drop significantly enough that the ecosystem can no longer support aquatic life. In a lake ecosystem, an average minimum DO reading of 7 mg/L is preferred to sustain the more sensitive fish species.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)/Conductivity:

In general terms, TDS reflects the amount of stuff’ in the water. While this measurement is usually more important when evaluating water for drinking purposes, it is still valuable to measure in recreational use of water. TDS is almost directly related to water clarity, which can effect temperature and aquatic life. A reading of 150 500 ppm is the standard.

Nitrates:

A type of nutrient found in water systems. They are naturally occurring from decomposing organic matter, but it can also point to pollution from fertilizers, sewage, and livestock manure. High nitrate input can cause excessive growth of algae or other aquatic plants, which then in turn will lower the oxygen level of the water. Nitrates can be harmful to humans in drinking water as well. Less than 10 mg/L of nitrogen is said to be safe for drinking water, but a reading of less than 2 mg/L is considered to be a normal level for a healthy aquatic system.


Test results from the August 13 tour:

Water Temp.
(°C)
Oxygen
(mg/L)
pH Nitrate
(mg/L)
Solids GPS Coordinates
Brennans Creek 21.9 6.7 7.17 2.1 328 45.56219, -77.40022
Brennans at mouth 23.3 6.8 7.31 1.6 123 45.56181,
-77.38596
Mundts Bay 24.8 9 6.7 1.4 383 45.58860, -77.30285
Gull Island 24.9 no data 6.78 1.9 45 45.56607, -77.32220
Near Golden Sands no data no data 7.29 1.5 48 45.59634, -77.36458
Bonnechere River no data no data 6.38 1.2 31 45.61204, -77.38851

Note from the River Watch Coordinator:

Thank you all once more for a lovely tour. Here is a copy of the water chemistry results from that day. Firstly I’d like to say that none of the measurements we took during the tour seemed particularly out of the ordinary, or beyond what we expected to see. You have a healthy lake, and I hope you will all continue to be good environmental stewards by sharing what you learned on the tour and promoting good environmental practices! Future generations should have the opportunity to enjoy Golden Lake as we do!Below I’ve written out some further explanation of what you see in the chart above.The temperature increase you may have noticed is mostly to do with the natural temperature increase experienced as we went from morning to midday. Unfortunately temperature could not be taken for the last two spots because the battery on our device ran out. Water samples were collected and brought back to the office with us to measure pH, Nitrates and TDS because those should not have changed in the time it took to plug the device in.The most notable and reflective measurement taken on the tour was Nitrates. As was mentioned on your hand out, less than 2 mg/L of nitrate is considered to be normal in a Lake ecosystem. The measurement on Brennans Creek was slightly higher than the desired level, but not so much so that it should cause alarm. This was likely the result of the upstream sewage treatment plant, and the high plant and animal activity along the creek. As I mentioned during the tour, the lush wetland vegetation is of great benefit to Brennans Creek, and if it weren’t there to help filter and purify the water, you can bet that Golden Lake wouldn’t be in nearly as good shape as it is. You can also see that the Nitrate level at Gull Island is approaching the upper limit as well. This is most likely due to the high input of fecal matter from the Cormorants. So far however, it seems that the Lake is able to buffer out this slight irregularity (good thing it’s a small island with about 30 birds rather than a large one with hundreds!). You may have noticed the variation in the TDS (solids) measurements throughout the Lake. The two measurements taken on Brennans Creek had considerably higher TDS than the rest of the Lake. This was to be expected due to the organic mushy substrate found in this wetland-type area. The TDS dropped significantly in most other parts of the lake. This was because most of the lake lies over a sandy gravelly sandy substrate. This type of bottom does not dissolve in the water and remain there the same way decomposing plant matter does. One irregularity that I am unable to explain is TDS on Mundts Bay. I can tell you though that it is much more likely that it was caused by a mechanical error, or that some backwash from the boat interfered with the sample collection than there actually being an issue on this part of the Lake.These measurements have been added to our database so that they may be referred back to if/when future sampling occurs. Thanks again!Jessica Danard
BRWP/Rive Watch Coordinator
Bonnechere River Watershed Project

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Shoreline Friendly Lawn Care: Cut it High and Let it Lie

Shoreline Friendly Lawn Care: Cut it High and Let it Lie

Lawns and lawn care can damage water quality. Reduce pollution and get a better lawn using these tips

Why cut it high?

  • Taller grass retains moisture and slows the runoff of rain water. Letting your grass grow longer is a great way to soften’ your property to make it more shoreline-friendly.
  • When grass is cut short the roots become shallower. This makes the plant weaker and less able to tolerate drought.
  • Taller grass exposes more leaf blade to the sun and, since each leaf is like a solar collector that delivers energy to the rest of the plant, more exposed leaf means healthier grass.
  • Taller grass shades out sun-loving weeds and keeps the soil cool and moist.
  • Allowing the grass to grow taller means you will need to cut it less often. In most cases, mowing frequency can be reduced by half.

How long should grass be?

  • The healthiest height for a grass lawn is about three inches. To maintain a lawn at 3 inches, mow when the lawn reaches a height of around 4 inches.
  • In shady areas the grass should be left a little longer to make up for the lack of sunlight. Cut it to 3 1/2 inches and mow when it reaches 4 1/2 inches.
  • Never cut more than one-third of the grass height in one pass because cutting off more causes stress. If you need to reduce the height by more than a third, cut once and wait a couple of days before cutting the rest.

Why leave the grass clippings?

  • Grass clippings are a free source of nutrients for your lawn. Leaving the clippings is preferable to applying an artificial fertilizer.
  • Raking up clippings does not reduce thatch, it contributes to it. Grass clippings decompose quickly and are food for the natural organisms that feed on thatch and keep it thin. Thatch is most often caused by cutting the grass too short, and the application of pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Each time you mow, alternate the direction of cut to reduce the build-up of grass clippings on the lawn. Exception: mow across slopes, not down them.

What is the best mower?

  • Reel mowers do less damage to the grass because they slice the leaf blades. Note that reel mowers are most often used on golf courses.
  • Rotary mowers are convenient and are easily motorized, but they cut by impact and leave a ragged edge on the leaf blade.
  • The blades of rotary mowers should be sharpened at least once each season to reduce damage to the grass plants. Dull blades tear the grass and increase the risk of disease and infestations.
  • Reel-type push mowers are the most environmentally friendly because they don’t burn fossil fuels, don’t make noise and they are natural mulchers. Push mowers are most suitable for small lawns.
  • Electric mowers, both corded and cordless, are quiet and effective. You can choose from either reel or rotary electric models.
  • Of the gas-powered mowers, four stroke engines are better than two strokes because they are more efficient and don’t pollute as much.

Other tips

  • Never use pesticides or fertilizers anywhere on your shoreline property because they all end up in the water. Natural methods work better anyway.
  • Control erosion by leaving a buffer of at least five feet at the shoreline to allow natural plants and shrubs to grow.
  • The best lawn is a small lawn because it needs less human and mechanical energy. Perennial beds and naturalized areas mean less lawn, less work and more birds and butterflies in your yard.

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The Killaloe Sewage Treatment Plant tour report

Report on a visit to the Killaloe Sewage Treatment Plant

Some GLPOA members have commented that the water near the mouth of Brennan’s Creek is fouled with algae blooms in late summer, and wondered if the cause was the outflow from the Killaloe sewage treatment plant just upstream. This is what the creek often looks like:

To investigate the issue, it was decided to visit the plant.

Date of visit: Thursday, September 1, 2005

Visitors: Kevin O’Connor, Hubert Weber, Wendy Milne, John Gulland

Hosts: Senior Operator Kevin Chapeskie (756-2008); Operator/Mechanic Ugene Bloskie; Process Technologist Vanessa Newman (from the Petawawa Office), all employees of the Ontario Clean Water Agency

Report prepared by John Gulland, September 2, 2005

Summary of Findings: We were given a thorough tour of the plant, and had a chance to see the raw sewage as it arrives and right through to the water that is released into Brennan’s Creek. The raw sewage, which is over 99% water, was not pleasant to look at and had a characteristic smell. The treatment process involves aeration by bubbling air through the raw sewage to increase biological activity, then a chemical is added that crystallizes phosphorous so it can settle out; the settling chamber is next, where the sludge is separated from the water, and the final stage is where chlorine is added to the water before it is released. It takes roughly 24 hours for the water to make its way through the plant. At the end of process, the treated water was perfectly clear and had a very slight smell of chlorine. After we left the plant, the members of the delegation commented on the quality of the plant and the professionalism of its staff.

More Details: The Killaloe plant treats between about 5,000 and 20,000 cubic metres (m3) of raw sewage per month. The maximum daily flow is over 1,000 m3, but the average is less than 400 m3. There are three key indicators of the condition of raw sewage and the quality of treated water, as follows:

Suspended Solids (SS), which, as the name implies, are solid particles suspended in the water.

Phosphorous, which is a chemical often found in detergents (phosphates) and fertilizers, and which acts as a plant nutrient in bodies of water and can promote algae growth.

Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), which is a technical term that I don’t pretend to understand entirely, but was explained to us as a ratio of bacteria and the organic material for the bacteria to feed on, and the oxygen available in the water to support the degradation of organic materials. This process of bio-chemical degradation is critical to the function of the plant. In fact, the staff refer to these two as bugs and food. They talk of the amount and condition of the bacteria as the extent to which the bugs are happy: If the bugs are happy, with enough but not too much to eat, then we’re happy. The bacteria are not introduced artificially, but are, not to get too specific, the same bugs we have in our guts for digestion, and they are the workhorses of the treatment plant.

The table below summarizes the concentrations of these three indicators in raw sewage, in the treated water, and the criteria set by the Ministry of Environment for municipal sewage plants. Figures are from the Killaloe plant for the seven months starting January 2005. All figures in milligrams per litre.

Raw Sewage
Maximum
Raw Sewage
Average
Treated Water
Maximum
Treated Water
Average
Ministry
Criteria
Suspended Solids 156.0 106.6 8.4 4.7 25
Phosphorous 4.26 2.81 0.27 0.18 1.0
BOD 121.0 67.9 20.0 6.0 25

The residual sludge, in liquid form, is stored until after spring runoff and is then spread on local farm fields, one of which is directly behind the plant. The staff told us that a day or two after the sludge is spread, it is no longer detectable by look or smell.

Enforcement of Ministry Criteria: Twice each month, samples of treated water are sent to an independent accredited laboratory for testing. If a sample tests beyond the set criteria limits, the Ministry and the Municipality is notified. The point here is that a failure to comply with criteria is not a private matter between the lab and the facility in question, but is automatically a regulatory matter. In addition, the Ministry conducts an annual audit of the plant, inspecting documentation, operations and taking supplementary samples for testing.

Conclusions: To further summarize the above figures, on an average day Brennan’s Creek, and therefore Golden Lake into which it flows, receives from the Killaloe sewage treatment plant 1.74 kilograms of suspended solids, 0.06 kilograms of phosphorous and 2.37 kilograms of BOD. I don’t really know what that means in terms of effects on water quality and wildlife, but it is clear that it is well under the criteria set by the Ministry of Environment. We could follow up this study by interviewing one or more biologists to get their views on expected impacts from this effluent. At this stage we cannot draw conclusions regarding the extent to which the Killaloe plant affects water quality in Golden Lake. I think that those of us who visited the plant would agree that, from what we learned on September 1, the effluent probably does not constitute a serious threat to water quality in Golden Lake.
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