Union Bay boils water, new turbidity standards

Union Bay boils water, new turbidity standards

By George Le Masurier

Union Bay residents are boiling water today that before August they were drinking from the tap. That’s when Island Health’s standard for turbidity in water from Langely Lake changed from 3 NTUs to 1 NTU.

Turbidity is the degree to which light is scattered by particles suspended in a liquid. And an NTU is a Nephelometric Turbidity Unit, a method of measuring turbidity uses a white light at 90 degrees to the detecting sensor.

The Union Bay Improvement District issued the boil water advisory on the weekend after heavy rainfalls and high winds stirred up the water in Langley Lake, the source of Union Bay’s drinking water. The UBID treats its water with chlorine, but turbidity can disrupt that process.

The UBID is currently designing a water treatment plant that will address the new turbidity standard and reduce water quality advisories. It is expected to issue a tender for construction next March.

Check the UBID website for more information.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.: How do I boil tap water so that it is safe to consume?

Tap water should be boiled for one minute. Use any clean pot or kettle. Kettles that have automatic shut offs are acceptable. After boiling, let the water cool by leaving it on the counter or in the refrigerator in covered containers. After water is boiled it can be stored in food grade containers at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Q.: When will the notice be lifted?

The notice will be lifted once the health authorities, in conjunction with the Superintendent of Waterworks, have concluded that the potential risk has been mitigated.

Q.: What are the health risks during a boil water notice?

The health risks associated with ingesting water that has not been boiled are hard to estimate. The Notice was issued because conditions exist that make it impossible to ensure the safety of the water without boiling it first. The risk could be low if no actual contamination occurred or very high if pathogens are present. However, you can be confident that boiling your tap water for one minute is sufficient to destroy any pathogens that are present in the water.

It is important to note that Boil Water Notices are specific to microbiological threats. They are not appropriate to address threats from chemical contamination. Boiling chemically contaminated water will only result in the chemical becoming more concentrated or release the chemical into the air where it could be inhaled. In such cases a different kind of Notice would be used.

Q.: What should I do once the notice has been lifted?

· Run cold-water faucets and drinking fountains for one minute before using the water

· Drain and flush all ice-making machines in your refrigerator

· Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle

· Drain and refill hot water tanks set below 45 C (normal setting is 60 C)

· Change any pre-treatment filters (under sink style and refrigerator water filters, carbon block, activated carbon, sediment filters, etc.)

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By George Le Masurier

The Comox Valley Regional District has increased the incentive for people wood burning stoves to switch to cleaner-burning systems. The rebates apply to any wood stove manufactured prior to 2014.

Thanks to the provincial wood stove exchange program announced this week, the CVRD is now offering:
• $250 for exchanging a non EPA/CSA certified wood stove for a new CSAB415 wood stove
• $600 for exchanging a wood stove manufactured prior to 2014 with a new gas, propane or pellet stove
• $1,000 for exchanging a wood stove manufactured prior to 2014 with an electric air-source heat pump

The CVRDis one of three regional districts in BC to offer this type of exchange. The other two are the Alberni-Clayoquot and Cowichan Valley Regional Districts.

Funding support for the Comox Valley wood stove exchange program has been provided by the BC Ministry of Environment, the BC Lung Association and Island Health. The Comox Valley Regional District also contributes a top-up incentive to applicants upgrading to these cleaner-burning heating sources.

For information about how to apply, click herehttps://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/services/environment/air-quality/wood-stove-exchange-program

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The Week: Sharpe dissed, dogs sprayed, no pot and Go Santa!

The Week: Sharpe dissed, dogs sprayed, no pot and Go Santa!

Before cannabis was legal in Canada, back in the 1970s, people had to stand outside on the porches of the Lorne Hotel to smoke it. Photo by George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Does anybody else feel like Mt. Washington’s freestyle skier Cassie Sharpe got overlooked for the Lou Marsh Trophy, which supposedly is awarded to Canada’s top athlete of the year?

Sharpe is the reigning Olympic champion in her sport, the halfpipe. She won the gold medal at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In 2015, she won the silver medal in halfpipe at the World Championships and both the gold and bronze medals at the Winter X Games in 2016 and 2018.

But a group of undisclosed sports reporters assembled by the Toronto Star newspaper — the award is named after a former Star sports editor — chose Mikael Kingsbury, of Quebec. He’s a worthy choice for having dominated moguls skiing competition for years, and also won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But Sharpe wasn’t even a finalist and didn’t get mentioned in the voting.

¶  Take this short test to determine Your Tolerance for Anarchy …

Question: If you see a dog running loose without a leash, do you:

A) Lasso the dog and tie it to the nearest tree?
B) Confront the dog’s owners and give them a stern talking to?
C) Shoot the dog with bear spray?

An elderly Comox couple apparently feel like “C” is an appropriate answer, although most of the rest of us would consider it an extreme response.

And yet, people who let their dogs off-leash in parks and other areas where the animals should be leashed can cause a real public nuisance. Some people have a fear of dogs. Nobody wants a friendly but muddy dog to jump up on them.

The worst offenders in the Decafnation world are people who enjoy the Goose Spit Stair Climb and let their dogs run up the dirt slopes, off the stairs. The dogs damage the slope and cause erosion. When the Comox Valley Regional District built new metal stairs this fall, they also landscaped the adjoining earthen slopes and posted a sign to keep animals on the stairs.

It hasn’t been 100 percent successful because some people let their dogs loose.

The answer is not bear spray. Obviously. But neither is consciously ignoring a requirement to leash your animal. The answer is to show respect for other people and our environment.

¶  So can the Comox Council hurry up its plan to create an off-leash dog park. Right now, the only place for dog owners to let their animals run free is in Cumberland.

¶  A regular Decafnation reader wrote to us this week, praising the in-depth story about Jonathan Page, PhD, a GP Vanier grad, who has rocketed to the top of the cannabis science world in Canada, and whose Anandia Labs is building the unique Cannabis Innovation Centre near the Comox airport. It’s the first-ever facility in the world devoted solely to breeding and genetics of cannabis.

The reader noted comments in the story about the fast-paced cannabis market, and how corporations are rushing to get ahead of the competition and dominate in our nation’s experiment in legalization.

But, our reader said, there doesn’t seem to be any rush to open a retail recreational marijuana store in the Comox Valley. In fact, he said, getting consumer access to legal pot seems to be bewilderingly slow.

¶  Congrats to Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns for pressing the issue of marine plastics in the House of Commons with a private member’s bill last year, and for managing to get it passed this year with unanimous support.

John’s bill calls for a nationwide strategy to reduce and, he hopes, eliminate plastic pollution in all marine environments, based partly on a report from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre.

So, how about it, Comox Valley governments? Cumberland is publicly working toward a plastic bag ban, but nary a formal peep so far from Comox and Courtenay.

¶  By the time St. Joseph’s General Hospital closed last year, the board had already released its vision for dementia village on the 17-acre site at the top of Comox Hill, which would include a campus of care services for all seniors. But for that vision to pencil out, The Views needed additional publicly-funded beds.

The Views have, no doubt, applied for some of the new complex care beds promised by Island Health two years ago, but which have been delayed for unspecified reasons. So it was a little surprising this week, that The Views Chief Administrative Officer, Michael Aikins issued a release about the already known vision.

That and unreturned phone calls to St. Joe’s board members makes us wonder if something is afoot, and that Island Health might make an announcement soon.

¶  Don’t tell your kids, but it’s scientifically impossible for Santa Claus to travel at 650 miles per second carrying gifts weighing at least 350,000 tons. At that speed and workload, Rudolph and the other reindeer would burst into flames and cook like a tofuturducken.

Or is it?

A professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University says it is. Santa would only have to harness a relativity cloud, based on Albert Einstein’s discovery that time can be stretched while space is squeezed.

Trying explaining that possibility to a skeptical nine-year-old.

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Morrison Creek: a spring-fed stream without stormwater outlets sustains aquatic life

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Janet Gemmell, president of the Morrison Creek Stream Keepers, along the creek near Puntledge Park — George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

This is the fourth in a series about how traditional municipal systems to handle urban stormwater runoff has affected Comox Valley streams, and the trend toward more natural solutions. The series examines and compares stormwater effects on three streams: Golf Creek, Brooklyn Creek and Morrison Creek.

Not all of the water from glacier-fed Comox Lake drains out through the Puntledge River. Huge volumes of cold clear water from the bottom of the lake infiltrate deep into the ground and begin seeping downhill on a multi-year journey toward the ocean.

But just east of Bevan Road, at the foot of a steep slope dropping about 100 feet, some of this water resurfaces in the form of dozens of tiny springs wiggling themselves free of their underground routes. These waters pool up into wetlands and ponds and grow into little tributaries that eventually all come together in one main channel.

We call that channel, Morrison Creek.

Morrison Creek flows from these headwaters at the outer edge of Cumberland, down through rural Area C of the Comox Valley Regional District, running somewhat parallel to Lake Trail Road. Then it travels through the City of Courtenay and joins the Puntledge River at Puntledge Park.

Like Brooklyn Creek, the Morrison travels through three separate municipal jurisdictions. But unlike Brooklyn — and most certainly unlike the polluted and channelized Golf Creek — the Morrison is alive with aquatic life in its cool, clean water.

The creek supports four of the five species of salmon all the way up to its headwaters. There are ample trout throughout the system, and large freshwater mussels flourish here. It is also home to a strange creature called the Morrison Creek lamprey, a unique variation of the common Western Brook Lamprey found on the coast.

And the Morrison’s waters run plentiful and steady all year around.

So why is Morrison Creek so much healthier than Brooklyn or Golf creeks?

The simple answer is that the Morrison’s headwaters are pristine and intact, and where it travels through developed areas, the creek remains mostly natural with adequate riparian cover.

But there’s also another reason.

More than 48 stormwater outlets empty into Brooklyn and Golf creeks — about two dozen each. And from those outlets flow oils, pesticides, animal and human feces and a variety of heavy metals and chemicals, many of which are toxic to wildlife. Golf creek gets an excessive amount of contaminants after a heavy rain because it drains the downtown commercial area of Comox.

By contrast, there are only two stormwater outlets into Morrison Creek, both near its termination in Puntledge Park and none come from a commercial area.

Saving the headwaters

The key to Morrison Creek’s success as a healthy waterway is the natural state of its vast headwaters. But that’s also the greatest threat to its long-term survival.

The headwaters area was originally logged in the 1920s and again in the 1960s. If the new growth was logged again, it would inflict cumulative negative impacts on the creek and wildlife habitat.

When the Comox Valley Lands Trust (CVLT) completed a science-based conservation plan several years ago, the Morrison headwaters emerged as a top priority to acquire and conserve. Not only does the nearly 600-acre area support significant biodiversity, it also plays a critical role in sustaining water quality in the rest of the Morrison watershed.

The headwaters are bordered by the Inland Highway to its west, north by Lake Trail Road and west by Bevan Road. The land is mostly owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, a logging company known as Comox Timber, with few exceptions:

There are homes on two small rural lots and two undeveloped properties, and a small piece of wetland purchased by the province during construction of the Inland Highway that was later protected at the Linton Conservation Area.


“We have a good creek. We’d like to keep it that way.”


There is also a 55-acre parcel privately owned since the 1960s by the late Beecher Linton. His family has agreed to sell the land to the CVLT and has given the nonprofit ample time to raise the $870,000 purchase price.

“The Linton heirs appreciate the natural value of the land and Beecher’s history on it,” Jan Gemmell, president of the Morrison Creek Stream Keepers, told Decafnation.

Although the CVLT and the stream keepers hope to ultimately preserve the entire Morrison watershed, the Linton property is a good start. It contains critical salmon habitat, many of the main creek’s tributaries and wetlands important to diverse wildlife.

“As much as the creek has been muddled around with in its lower reaches, the creek has a really good, continuous source of cool, highly-oxygenated spring water that doesn’t dry up in the summer,” Gemmell said.

The best way to preserve Morrison Creek, she said, is to let the headwaters land regrow.

Tim Ennis, executive director of the CVLT, said the Linton property resides in the Comox Valley Regional District, which contributed 35 percent of the purchase price, and will eventually manage it as a nature park.

“The remainder of the Morrison headwaters is in the Village of Cumberland,” Ennis said. “It will be harder to acquire because the village doesn’t have the resources to help as much as the regional district did.”

Threats from multiple jurisdictions

While logging or development of the Morrison Creek headwaters would be devastating, there are also other threats.

The creek flows through Roy Morrison Park, a 20-acre parcel managed by the City of Courtenay, but owned by the Nature Trust of BC with a covenant to ensure its long-term natural state. But much of what people think of as Morrison Park is actually school board property.

Recent attempts by the school board to close Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary have raised concerns about the possibility the district would someday sell the lands.

In the Arden Road area, a City of Courtenay Local Area Plan specifies 30 metre setbacks from the stream, where no development can occur. However some relaxation of this standard has occurred, Gemmell said.

Gemmell said there are also concerns about the rural and sparsely populated areas west of Powerhouse Road, which lies in Area C of the regional district.

If smaller lot development was allowed in this area, with accompanying paved roads, gutters and storm drains, it would negatively impact the creek.

“Even larger country estate lots, developments where a single large home is built, but the whole lot is cleared, drained and leveled, remove natural sponge areas and affect creek flows,” Gemmell said. “We have a good creek. We’d like to keep it that way.”

Alana Mullaly, the CVRD’s senior manager of planning and protective services, said the lands in and around Morrison Creek are designated “settlement expansion areas” in the Regional Growth Strategy. Both the RGS and the zoning within the settlement expansion areas establish a minimum subdivision parcel size of four hectares (approximately 10 acres), she said.

“Settlement expansion areas are intended as reserve areas for future growth needs of the municipal areas,” Mullaly told Decafnation. “Higher intensity development in these areas would only be permitted if and when they are incorporated into a municipal area, publicly serviced (sewer and water) and a local area plan with companion zoning is prepared.”

However, Morrison Creek is also protected under the Riparian Areas Regulation.

“We implement that provincial regulation using the development permit tool,” Mullaly said. “We are also looking at how to better protect species at risk, such as the Morrison Creek Western Lamprey, through the development permit tool (e.g. implementing the Species at Risk Action plans).”

Morrison supports biodiversity

Beavers make dams on many of the spring-fed tributaries of Morrison Creek in its headwaters. These dams create natural retention ponds that allow water to soak back into the ground and also prevent overflows after heavy rains or snowmelt.

That’s what man-made retention ponds attempt to do. They prevent rushes of water into the creek that could cause erosion and disturb fish spawning grounds.


More than 48 stormwater outlets empty into Brooklyn and Golf creeks. By contrast, there are only two stormwater outlets into Morrison Creek


And the steady flow makes biodiversity in the creek possible. Besides salmon, trout, mussels and lampreys, there are also Red-legged frogs, Great Blue herons and Pacific Sideband snails living in the riparian areas of the creek. Of course, beavers, deer, bears and other wildlife live in the headwaters.

Perhaps the most unusual species found in the stream is the Morrison Creek lamprey, a unique variation of the common Western Brook Lamprey found in streams along the coast. It is only found in Morrison Creek.

The first five years of the lamprey’s life are spent immersed in the silty bottom of the creek or its ponds. When it emerges, the Morrison lamprey metamorphoses into both parasitic and non-parasitic forms.

Stream keepers do their part

To keep any stream healthy requires a dedicated and active group of volunteers. The Comox Valley is fortunate to have a large number of stream keeper groups, all with a high level of expertise, who monitor local creeks and advocate for their protection.

The Morrison Creek Stream Keepers was founded in 1996. It has seven board members and about 20 to 25 active volunteers, and has done numerous in-stream improvement projects. They have removed a dilapidated wooden fish ladder and replaced it with a boulder-based riffle, which creates fish habitat. Major fish passage work has been done at Comox Logging Road, and the volunteers have created a pond in Puntledge Park and done annual smolt counts and collecting data on spawning fish.

The Morrison stream keepers contract out the expert design and technical work to Current Environmental, of Courtenay. Funds for the project have come from other environmental nonprofits. The City of Courtenay has not provided matching grants in the past, as Comox has done for the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society.

What’s next

The Comox Valley Lands Trust has almost raised enough funds to complete the purchase of the Linton property, but not nearly enough to preserve the entire Morrison Creek headwaters. Nor have negotiations begun with Comox Timber for the remaining 500 or so acres.

But the CVLT is working with BC Lands Trust Alliance to advocate for taking the Gulf Island Natural Areas Tax Exempt Program province wide. The Gulf Island’s program is a pilot project that eliminates property tax on any portion of the property where a covenant is placed on its natural assets.

For now, Morrison Creek is thriving, and that status could be assured with the protection of its headwaters; a wilderness oasis unaffected by human disturbances about the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

And there’s something else important about Morrison Creek that doesn’t often get mentioned. The origins of the creek, natural springs created by groundwater seepage from Comox Lake and Maple Lake, remind us of the interconnectivity of the greater Comox Valley Watershed, and how it all impacts not just creeks and streams, but also our drinking water and the various ways people enjoy our waterways.

 

WHAT’S A RIFFLE?

A shallow area where water passes over rocks or other structures, creating turbulence or small disturbances in the flow of water. Because the disturbances increase the amount of dissolved oxygen, and there are many small spaces in the rocks and other structures, riffles provide good habitat for macroinvertebrates (e.g. snails and insects, such as dragonflies).

 

SOME MORRISON HISTORY

In the 1920s, the stream was called Millard Creek. At least one other local creek has the same name, and there’s Mallard Creek to confuse things further. The Morrison family owned property from Arden Road to Willemar Avenue and from 1st Street to Lake Trail Road. 

 

BEECHER LINTON PROPERTY

In the 1870s, settlers worked with Reginald Pidcock to build a ditch and flume, diverting water from Morrison Creek, near the present day foot bridge in Roy Morrison Park to a mill pond in what is now the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot in Courtenay. The water powered Pidcock’s new lumber mill at the foot of Sixth Street. There is a photo of the old mill hanging in Home Hardware (Central Builders). A portion of that ditch remains visible today. Part of it was reactivated in the 1980s to enhance juvenile coho habitat.

 

LEUNG MARKET GARDEN

The Linton Property includes the location of the historical Leung family farm. During the early 1900s, the Leungs supplied the main agricultural products that sustained the early settlers. The China Trail, was a wagon road that linked the Leung farm with the growing communities of Cumberland and Courtenay.

 

GWILT LOGGING COMPANY

The remains of a sawmill operated by the Gwilt Logging Company can still be seen in the Linton Property portion of the Morrison Creek headwaters. The mill burned down in the early 1920s, but pieces of it can still be seen.

 

SETTLEMENT EXPANSION AREAS

The settlement expansion areas have been identified as future growth areas for the adjacent urban municipalities. Development is limited in these areas to ensure the phased and timely development of lands that is consistent with the goals and objectives of the member
municipalities. The areas contain a broad range of uses . Generally, significant change to the existing land use or further subdivision that increases the density, impact or intensity of use of land is not envisioned until these areas have been amalgamated with the adjacent
municipality, except in those areas where public infrastructure is required to address environmental issues. — From the Rural Comox Valley Official Community Plan

 

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

To make a donation to the Comox Valley Lands Trust effort to acquire the Morrison Creek headwaters, click here

To volunteer with the Morrison Creek Stream Keepers, click here

 

 

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High winds throw Comox spit trimaran aground near park

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BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

A Trimaran named Kyst that had been moored in the lee of Goose Spit Regional Park for about a year has broke its anchorage and gone aground near Mack Laing Park.

The owner, friends and family members were out early this morning to make an attempt to float the vessel on high tide. Several inflatable bags had been placed under the boat to life it off the gravelly beach.

Recent high winds must have caused the mooring to pull loose sometime on Tuesday, Dec. 11. About a half-dozen boats are moored in a relatively small area of deep water on the inside of the Spit. Some appear abandoned there.

A catamaran was anchored in the same general area for several years until it was busted apart and disappeared two years ago.