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High arsenic levels in Kam Lake from 1989 prompt advisory

A public health advisory concerning arsenic levels in lake water around Yellowknife was released by the NWT’s chief public health officer Monday.

READ: The full advisory on the Department of Health and Social Service’s website

The advisory is similar to one issued last year, with the addition of data concerning dissolved arsenic levels in Kam Lake.

It can’t be called new data, however, as the information on Kam Lake is from nearly 30 years ago.

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Old data from 1989 was recently found by health and social services. It showed that Kam Lake had some of the highest arsenic levels in the Yellowknife area.

Dr. André Corriveau, the territory’s chief public health officer.

While this is outdated data, the territory’s chief public health officer Dr. André Corriveau said they’re releasing the updated advisory to be better safe than sorry.

“We think it’s probably good that people assume that this lake is still contaminated,” Corriveau told Moose FM.

According to the information, in 1989 Kam Lake had the highest rate of dissolved arsenic in its water in the Yellowknife area, above 500 parts per billion.

“It could be that it’s a little bit less now, you know 30 years later,” said Corriveau.

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“But until we get newer data we have to put it as the best information we have. As a precautionary principle we have to assume that it’s probably still quite contaminated.”

The public advisory advises the public “not to use Kam Lake for swimming, fishing or harvesting of nearby berries or other edible plants.

“Residents can continue to enjoy paddling on the lake or walking through the area.” [pdf]

Water from Kam Lake should also not be consumed according to the advisory.

“It’s a reminder that it’s a contaminated lake and it might be pretty to look at but it’s not a place where you’d want to go swimming every day or use for catching fish that you eat,” Corriveau said.

He believes an updated study of the contamination in Kam Lake should be done.

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