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Boaters stirring up toxic chemicals in Kalamalka Lake: Study

Click to play video 'Boaters stirring up toxic chemicals in Kal Lake' Boaters stirring up toxic chemicals in Kal Lake

There are calls for changes on how boaters navigate one of the more popular lakes in the Central Okanagan.

The call for change is in response to a recent study showing that toxic sediment is being stirred up by boaters on Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake, and it’s ending up in the local drinking water.

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Scott Boswell is with the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program.

It did a study on the impact of boating on Kalamalka Lake and on Wood Lake, which reveals that the boats are having an impact on the local drinking water by stirring up the bottom.

“They found that there’s heavy metals, bacteria and hydrocarbons in that sediment. And it’s re-suspended it can actually drift to our water intakes,” Boswell said.

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Boswell says upwards of 60,000 residents rely on both lakes as their prime source of drinking water. With that in mind, Boswell is recommending boaters stay away from shore.

“We’re really hoping to encourage people to utilize the centre of the lake and stay away from the shallow areas,” he said.

For those concerned about an outright ban on motorboats, the chair of the Regional District of North Okanagan says that will never float.

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“Seeing a complete ban for motorboats on the lake would be a real hard press at this point,” Kevin Acton said.

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Kevin O’Brien runs a paddleboard shop in Coldstream. He says keeping motorboats away from the shore makes sense because, he says, adding not only has it become an environmental problem, but also a safety issue.

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“Maybe the boats are out in the centre of the lake and leave the shoreline activities. The paddling, the swimming. It will be a happier place for everybody,” O’Brien said.

But O’Brien stops short of calling for a complete motorboat ban.

“There are people that own boats along the shorelines who probably moved here for those activities,” he said. “So it would be tough to say: you have to leave and go to Okanagan Lake.”