Lake water blamed for health problems

Woman and dog both ill following swim near Summerland dog beach

A Summerland woman said swimming at the dog beach earlier this summer has left her and her dog with serious health problems.

Dallas Gambell said she and her eight-month-old shitzu-yorkie cross, Bella, went swimming in the lake on three days in July.

Then both became sick.

Gambell has been been vomiting and has a hard time breathing. Her dog has been sick with diarrhea.

She believes the lake water is to blame, since the illness happened shortly after she and her dog had been swimming.

“That’s the only thing that’s changed in our schedule,” she said.

She said the illness is serious and contagious.

“Everyone coming into our house is getting sick,” she said. “This has been going on for more than 14 days.”

Juliana Gola, team leader, environmental health at Interior Health said local and regional governments are responsible for bacteriological beach testing in the Okanagan.

The sampling program runs throughout the swimming season.

If results exceed the guidelines, Interior Health consults with local governments about posting a notification at the beach.

Jeremy Denegar, director of corporate services with the municipality, said the works and utilities department tests the water quality at all Summerland public beaches each Monday.

Test samples are then sent to CARO Analytical Services, and the results are sent to the Interior Health Authority and posted on the IHA website.

The test results when Gambell was in the lake have been among the lowest bacteriological results all summer, he said.

“Test results from Summerland’s beaches have been well within acceptable parameters as far back as they are available on the Interior Health website, covering the period of time when Ms. Gambell and her dog were in the lake,” Denegar said.

He added that there is no direct evidence from the water samples that anything is wrong with the lake water at any of Summerland’s beaches.

“Without any such evidence, it is not possible to know what caused the illness of her dog or herself,” he said. “It could be an unfortunate coincidence.”

Gambell said she has heard from others in Summerland who have also become sick after swimming in Okanagan Lake, but Denegar said no one else has approached the municipality.

While the water is tested regularly, Interior Health says there is always a risk from recreational water.

“Interior Health would like to remind the public that there is always the potential risk of encountering contaminants and infectious agents in recreational water,” Gola said. “Recent flood activity has brought with it a high level of organic material into the lake which can allow for the growth of bacteria, parasites, and algae. It is not advisable at any time to ingest untreated surface water from lakes, rivers, etc. due to potential contamination.”