July 10, 2014 8:06 pm

Contaminated lake a tease for lake-goers

KATEPWA, Sask. – Clean-up continues across southern Saskatchewan following a week of severe flooding, but it’s also having a lasting effect on many lake-goers wanting to enjoy the warm weather.

High levels of E. coli have been found in Last Mountain, Echo, Pasqua and Katepwa Lakes. Cooked and Round Lake are also suspected to have similar issues.

The contamination is being blamed on runoff from agricultural operations and sewage released from flooded communities.

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At Katepwa Lake on Thursday, many kids at camp were being kept away from the lake.

“Normally on a day like today, this lake would be full of the kids,” said Paydem Fraser, director at Camp Monahan. “Some are a little upset… but they’ve been really good with the issue and understanding their safety.”

The swimming pool at Camp Monahan is a blessing for the kids, and the camp counsellors have managed to keep them distracted: “Playing a lot of different games on the beach that are fun and out of the water.”

Down the road at Katepwa Lake Camp, water sports play a big role in its programming.

“We bought a brand new boat this year, and so we have a week’s worth of use out of that brand new boat,” said Jimmy Schimmel, executive director at Katepwa Lake Camp. “We’re fortunate to have access to a well where we can actually pump water to a field so we can have our giant slip-and-slide going.”

At the Katepwa Main Beach, the health advisory is not keeping swimmers out of the water.

“I’ve been in all week. I just stopped cause my mom came out (to the lake),” said one sunbather.

The Ministry of Health can’t say how long the advisory will be in place but that E. coli can cause serious health effects.

“Nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea and sometimes fever,” said Tim Macaulay, director of environmental health. “We’re not concerned about absorption through the skin but even when you’re swimming, you will involuntarily consume some water.”

Lake-goers are discouraged from activities like water skiing and tubing, but the advisory is not applied to boating, canoeing or fishing.

Water samples from Katepwa and the other lakes of concern will again be taken on Monday.

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