Double E coli count in Gatineau River


by Mark Burgess on July 29, 2010

High temperatures and and the low water level have led to the doubling of E coli bacteria  count in the Gatineau River this summer, according to the latest Friends of the Gatineau River (FOG) tests.

The warmth and decreased levels have also encouraged algae and weeds to grow in bays and shallow shoreline areas.

The various points tested along the river still received “B” ratings (indicating good quality) with between 21 and 100 coliforms per 100 ml. Two exceptions were the mouth of the Kazabazua River, which received a “C” (acceptable) rating, and the Tenaga Property Owners’ Association Beach in Chelsea, which scored the lone “A” for excellent quality. All the other sites in Farrellton, Wakefield, Cantley and Chelsea received “B” grades.

FOG President Alain Piche said the river’s average temperature July 20 was 23.6 C. This marks a tremendous increase over the past two years, with temperatures hitting 19.7 C and 20 C, respectively, on the same dates in 2008 and 2009. In some spots, Piche said the water was as warm as 25 C.

“I think the weather is kind of testing the resilience of the river,” he said, calling large stretches of uncovered shoreline “quite remarkable.”

“I guess the message is the system is fragile.”

The water testing was based on more than 70 samples.

Piche wouldn’t speculate as to the causes of the lone “C” rating in Kaz and its possible connection to the MRC Vallee de la Gatineau’s septic treatment plant, which discharges its treated water into the river.

He said it represents one series of tests on one day, where a series of tests would be needed to determine a trend. He also pointed out that it was a “borderline C”, just over the cutoff for the “B” rating.

“But certainly it’s a reason to go back and test again,” Piche said, adding that it could be a way of measuring the potential impact of the MRC des Collines’ future septic treatment plant, which could expel its treated water into the Gatineau in La Peche.