Trout Lake Water Quality Sampling 2015-2016

The 2015-2016 Trout Lake Water Quality Sampling Project emerged from the Source Water Protection Planning Project that Ecology North undertook in partnership with the Sambaa K'e Dene Band (SKDB) of Trout Lake and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) in 2014. The source water project resulted in the completion of a draft source water protection plan for the community of Trout Lake (completed in early 2015), the bulk of which consists of two main parts: 1) an inventory of potential water quality contaminant sources within the Trout Lake watershed; and 2) a list of desired management actions to address the potential contaminant sources identified.

Following the completion of the plan in 2015, the next step was to start moving towards implementing the priority source water actions identified in the plan. Although the priorities are diverse, there are several calls for additional water quality sampling near abandoned well and waste sites in the watershed.

As such, this project was developed as a first step towards implementing these calls for action. The purpose of the sampling project was to gain a better understanding of how abandoned well and waste sites may be impacting water quality in the Trout Lake watershed. The intent is that the results from this work will continue to provide insight into the ongoing source water protection planning and implementation processes in the community of Trout Lake. The SKDB and Ecology North, with support from ENR GNWT, initiated and carried out the first year of the sampling program during the summer and fall of 2015.

In total, nine samples were taken from five different sites identified as source water priorities by Trout Lake community members. The majority of samples were collected by members of the SKDB and sent to Yellowknife via charter plane. Parameters test included pH, total BTEX (hydrocarbons), conductivity, major ions, total trade metals and total mercury. All of the results were compared to the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life, which are developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME).

Overall, the 2015 sampling results are positive. The amount of hydrocarbons (oil and gas chemicals) dissolved in the water was below the level that instruments can detect at all of the sample sites. Furthermore, the amount of total arsenic, molybdenum, nickel, lead, selenium and zinc in the water were below the CCME Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life at all of the sampled sites. Although not alarming given existing water quality data in the area and what would be expected for sites of this nature, there were some exceedances in cadmium, copper, iron, total mercury and silver. Sites with exceedances have been flagged for continued monitoring through future work.

In early January 2016 Ecology North hosted a results meeting and open house in the community of Trout Lake. A plain language summary of the results was presented at the meting, which was attended by nearly one fifth of the community. These results were well received and fostered substantial interest among community members for additional training and continued water sampling in the community.

We used this opportunity to work together to discuss which sites are the main concerns for moving forward and to set community priorities for source water protection planning over the next year. The insights gathered from this meeting and the sampling results collected during the project are being used to inform the development of a more formal source water protection implementation plan for Trout Lake. The plan will provide a more detailed list of actions, timelines and targets for source water protection activities in Trout Lake, including our Hazardous Waste Clean Up Project in Trout Lake!