50 years ago in Powell River

The photo above and article below were originally published in the Powell River News on December 4, 1969.

Brown ooze in Cranberry Lake swimming area probably harmless iron bacteria

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Build-up of brown ooze in the swimming area of Cranberry Lake was subject of concern at the last two meetings of council. Alderman Gerry Gray introduced the subject suggesting that if the pipe which carries the stuff into the lake was pointed in another direction and an increased volume of fresh water poured into it, this might help clear the ooze away.

Not so, said Alderman Norm Hill at the last meeting of council. He described this as a brown algae (later he explained this was a general term and not the finding of any team of investigators) and said it resulted from seepage into the pipe. The pipe was improperly bedded, he explained, and now runs in a roller-coaster fashion, as the result seepage makes its way in and creates the brown substance.

He added that an increase in the flow of water would not help keep the swimming area clean. He explained that the pipe entered a small bay of the lake and was pointed from one side to the other, not out into the lake. He later told The News that the extra fresh water mentioned would be introduced into the pipe from Haslam Lake.

Following the explanation, Gray said he was “still concerned.”

Mayor Court told the engineer to “look into” the problem.

Last year the same complaint about the brown ooze was raised in council. At that time there was a suggestion the substance might be run off from nearby septic tanks.

The News contacted Dr. Gemmill of the department of health. Dr. Gemmill said that a brown substance from a pipe which drains into Cranberry Lake had been examined by his department last year and samples had been sent to provincial laboratories for analysis.

“Laboratory tests showed this substance to be an iron bacteria,” he said. This may be the same pipe, he added, but was not sure. Dr. Gemmill said another test would be conducted on the pipe mentioned at council to make doubly sure.

Dr. Gemmill said there would be no threat to health from the iron bacteria.

Asked if there was any relationship between the iron bacteria and the “swimmers itch” many young swimmers developed after a dip in Cranberry Lake last year, he said: “No. The itch was identified as an infection from a parasite that inhabited the lake.” He said the itch was only a “minor aggravation” which disappeared in a few days.

“Copper sulphate was introduced into the lake to help eliminate the snails,” he said.

There is a stronger pesticide that could eliminate the snails more easily, the doctor said, but as yet the effects on other wildlife is uncertain, therefore the health department is “holding back” on its use.

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