Leap Day event makes water info less dry

Lead Day event held by Friends of the Similkameen focuses on water.

  • Mar. 3, 2016 3:00 p.m.

For the last 18 years at least twice a month Gabrielle Cursons takes an important trip to the Similkameen River by her home in Cawston.

The longtime resident has been collecting water samples for Environment Canada and BC Environment at the Chopaka bridge since 1998.

“I got the job because someone had died. The man who had been doing it had died and his wife called me and asked if I was interested in doing it because she couldn’t. I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said Monday night at the Leap Day event organized by Friends of the Similkameen at the Cawston Hall.

The data is collected regularly because the river runs downstream into the US. Similar water collection is completed by a woman in Princeton. Intermittent data is collected in Hedley and Manning Park. Some of that historical data is being used in the Similkameen Valley Planning Society’s watershed plan. The plan should be completed by 2017.

The water samples Curson collects are used to keep a consistent tab on an array of different minerals, heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria including E. Coli and other substances in the river.

Cursons said she spends about a half an hour collecting the water samples and preparing them for shipping to a lab in Vancouver. She drops a dome type plastic apparatus into the water to collect most of the samples. When it’s full she pulls it out and then sends the samples accordingly. She also performs dissolved oxygen testing using special equipment.

When she first started collecting data, the river was categorized as Good by environmental guidelines. It is now considered to be fair.

She doesn’t analyze the data herself but has noticed some trends during her almost two decades of performing the water collection.

“The water is greener in colour. The rocks are slimier. It’s not as clear as it once was. I’m not sure what’s caused that, probably a few different things,” she said.

Last year specifically, she noted, tests showed that there was less dissolved oxygen in the water.

“The water levels were dropping last year and the temperatures rising,” she said.

Several times during her tenure as the sample collector, Cursons has been called because there was something going on upstream.

Most recently a mishap at a mine in Princeton occurred but she wasn’t able to get to the river to collect samples in time before contaminants, if there were any, made there way past Cawston.

The water is also tested over the border by the US.

“I try my best to get there. But sometimes by the time I can make it it’s already gone past. The river flows quickly,” she said.

All the presenters at the event noted concerns about the low levels experienced in the Similkameen last summer.

Corey Brown, a local organic farmer didn’t mix words as he said “I think the river is in trouble.”

“I have huge concerns about the river. There’s several mines in the area active and not. One misstep and our river will be contaminated past the point of return.”  He encouraged anyone who is interested in the river to get informed about what’s going on around them that might have an impact.

Other presenters included a photo essay by Lee MacFadyen, an informal question and answer about issues including water, land rights, wildlife in the Okanagan Nation by Dixon Terbasket, information about the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and films about water related topics by Dave Cursons.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Penticton resident’s dog found safe

Nicholas Bozak thanks the public for finding his 17 month old mastiff chow

Keremeos man says stem cell therapy changed his life

Darryl Brewer says he went from being immobile with chronic pain to leading an active lifestyle

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

Youth Wellness Gathering aims to empower, educate South Okanagan youth

The event is hosted by a non-profit located on the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) reserve July 22 & 23

Summerland Fall Fair to include zucchini race

Event is in honour of bobsleigh athlete Justin Kripps

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

Kelowna car thief’s sentencing delayed

Stanley Nickason pled guilty car theft charges in B.C. Supreme Court

Development gives Kelowna community garden the boot

Glen Valley residents given a few days to break it down before land development

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

World-famous sopranos to hold concert in Okanagan

Two Canadian sopranos are bringing their world-famous voices to the Okanagan for one night only

Kelowna RCMP release video of reckless theft out of Southwest Mission

“Their tactics were anything but subtle,” states Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey

Summerland Fall Fair to include zucchini race

Event is in honour of bobsleigh athlete Justin Kripps

Most Read