Tracking bacteria in Ucluelet Harbour

Ha-Shilth-Sa, March 23, 2006

Rod Touchie sampling water

Ucluelet — 

A Bacterial Source Tracking project began March 7th in the Ucluelet area, with help from Uu-a-thluk Fisheries, the Ucluelet First Nation and Health Canada.

This project will help to identify point sources of fecal bacteria in and around Ucluelet Harbour, and help direct clean-up efforts for community health purposes.

A Bacterial Source Tracking project began March 7th to identify point sources of fecal bacteria in and around Ucluelet Harbour, and help direct clean-up efforts for community health purposes.

Shellfish harvesting within Ucluelet Inlet has been closed since 1972, due to fecal contamination and other sources of pollution. Former testing by Environment Canada (EC) identified the streams at the head of Ucluelet Inlet as major sources of fecal coliform bacteria. However, EC staff believe that the head of the inlet is the most likely place for successful remediation and mitigation for reopening the beaches to shellfish harvest, especially if human sources of raw sewage can be addressed.  

 The study will use new bacterial source tracking techniques, available at the Pacific Environmental Science Centre in North Vancouver, to determine whether the fecal contaminants originate from human or other less controllable “hinterland” sources (e.g. deer).   Samples will be collected from selected sample around Ucluelet Harbour. If the source of fecal contamination is of human origin, thie analysis will direct clean-up efforts and focus public awareness campaigns in appropriate areas, with the hope of eventually resuming shellfish harvesting activities in Ucluelet Harbour.

The initial goal of the Ucluelet First Nation is to work toward changing the “prohibited” EC designation to a “closed” status. This would then allow the Ucluelet First Nation to harvest and depurate (purify) shellfish for home use and/or commercial purposes. The long-term goal is to have a permanent “opened” designation. Samples from drainages in the Millstream area in 1998 showed fecal coliform counts more than 600 times the acceptable level.

If you have any questions regarding the Bacterial Source Tracking Project or information about possible sources of sewage entering Ucluelet Harbour or area streams, please contact the Uu-a-thluk Fisheries Office in Ucluelet at (250)726-2455.

Submitted by Dawn Foxcroft Uu-a-thluk Outreach Coordinator and  Mike Jacobs Uu-a-thluk Regional Biologist