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Great Lakes Article:

Lakefront associations frightened by latest results
By Matt Shurrie
Goderich Signal-Star

Mike McElhone is adamant that something needs to be done quickly in order to prevent Lake Huron from turning into a cesspool of contamination and disease.

McElhone and fellow Ashfield Colborne Lakefront Association (ACLA) member Barb Foell unveiled their latest - and most shocking - water quality test results last week and the picture painted was far from pretty.

Water quality results taken on Oct. 15 along Highway 21 at the creek adjacent to Bogie’s Road indicate E.coli levels were 420 times the provincial water quality standard of 100-cfu/100 mL. Similar readings taken along the shoreline were frightening including the Kintail Creek (170 times above the standard), Boyd Creek (95 times above the standard) and Eighteen Mile River (69 times above the standard).

" The frightening part is look at what the results for Bogie’s Road were before - 30, 600 and 408 - and this one’s a 100 times multiple," McElhone said. "The rest of the results (from 12 other locations) came from the rain and the manure flowing off the fields but this one is just beyond belief."

McElhone said more than anything he is concerned that it used to take three days to a month for the E.coli to die in the rivers and streams feeding Lake Huron. Now it takes a minimum of 13 months.

" On average over a year every stream is above the 100 E.coli per 100 mL level so any chance we have of getting that lake cleaned up is null and void," McElhone said.

Frustrated by 10 years of beach closures due to high E.coli levels, the ACLA in cooperation with the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) began conducting bi-weekly tests of various streams in 2001. This year McElhone and Foell have conducted bi-weekly tests since mid-April.

They will have conducted close to 200 tests between Goderich and Amberley when they finish later this month.

" How this started was there was this constant finger pointing as to why the beaches were polluted," McElhone said. "Cottagers blamed farmers, farmers blamed cottagers and there were some other off-the-wall suggestions."

McElhone said knowing the Huron County Health Unit was conducting beach testing the cottagers decided to test the streams as a way of pinpointing the source of the contamination.

In keeping with the philosophy of locating those water sources that are having the greatest negative impact on lake water quality, five 100 mL samples were flown overnight to Source Molecular Labs in Gainesville, Florida on Sept. 17 in hopes of identifying the source of contamination.
The results - released last week - show animal waste as the probable source of contamination in the area’s streams. In 2004 the ACLA intends to submit further samples for more detailed analysis as a means of identifying whether the E.coli originates from cattle or pigs.

" Our attempt through all of this has absolutely not been anti-farmer,”"McElhone stressed while revealing the data. "We’ve got some significant support from the concerned farmer community. It has been finding out where this comes from and then getting the laws changed so that this gets eliminated."

McElhone expressed disappointment with the previous provincial government saying nutrient management laws are not nearly enough to stop the problem.

" So far none of the small farmers do a nutrient management plan and the MVCA will tell you that 10-12 feet of brush along every creek would eliminate about 85 per cent of the run-off," McElhone said. "You get up into some of these major farms and those things have been bulldozed."
McElhone said at the Friends of the Maitland River event in Bayfield two summers ago a guest speaker from the Ministry of the Environment talked about the problems facing Lake Huron.

" He said we are the second most heavily deforested county in the province so there’s nowhere to absorb it," McElhone said. "When the rain hits he said they refer to it as the big flush."

Foell and McElhone said they are most concerned when children and young families - unable to swim in beaches deemed unsafe by the health unit - head to local streams.

" I think people are getting sick," Foell said. "There’s lots of anecdotal evidence of kids with rashes and ear infections but it’s not science.
" (What’s been happening) is scandalous."

McElhone’s report - which concludes that massive amounts of E.coli loaded water continues to enter Lake Huron from the 12 streams has been forwarded to the provincial ministries, Ontario cabinet ministers, parliamentary assistants, local MPPs, opposition critics, responsible federal ministers, local federal MPs, environmental groups and a number of media.

ACLA raises funds, provides volunteers for sample collection and presents results to a variety of government organizations. The ACLA is also assisted by an annual contribution from Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township.

" We believe that the data is overwhelming and conclusive," McElhone said.

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