Lakefront associations frightened
by latest results
By Matt Shurrie
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
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
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
" 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
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
" We believe that the data is overwhelming and conclusive,"