Kelowna says it will test lake water off Cedar Avenue to show just how bad it is.
But it will not include the tests with other samples, to be taken at several local beaches, because it does not want the bad results it knows it will get from Cedar Avenue lumped in with other test results and the public, particularly visitors, to think Kelowna beaches are not safe places to swim.
Earlier this week, Kelowna city council agreed to collect water samples at local beaches for Interior Health to test, ending a holdout it started last year when IH said it could not longer afford to pay for the beach water sample collections.
In agreeing the city should collect the samples, Mayor Walter Gray said Kelowna should also test the water at Cedar Avenue— a site where the city posts signs saying it is unsafe to swim because of poor water quality—in order to show why the city feels that way.
But Joe Creron, the city’s director of civic operations, said the information collected about Cedar Avenue should not be made public because he feared it would taint the public’s view of Kelowna beaches.
In a recent survey, he said 85 per cent of visitors asked said local beaches were main reasons they visit Kelowna.
At its meeting on Monday, council agreed that the city will pay for the collection of water samples during the summer at popular beaches such as Hot Sands in City Park, Tugboat Bay in Waterfront Park, Gyro, Rotary and Sarsons.
Last year IH said it would no longer pay for the collection of water samples from beaches in municipalities in the Central Okanagan, prompting Kelowna to complain the move was a form of downloading. While other municipalities agreed to to pay for the sample collections and IH said it would pay for, and conduct, the water tests, Kelowna was a holdout.
It has now changed that position and will collect the samples before passing them passed to IH for testing.
Gray said testing water at “no-swimming” sites like Cedar Avenue, Sutherland Bay and Fascieux Creek, would give the city the data it needs to show just how poor the water quality is at those locations.
Last year, Cedar Avenue was the subject of a controversial city development proposal that many in the community opposed. The opponents want the area maintained as a park.
Gray said while it could be used as a lakeshore park, its uses do not have to include swimming.
The poor water quality in the area is due to goose and duck excrement and poor water circulation and shallow depth.