What is that smell? Buildup of organic matter causing stench, discolouration at Regina's Wascana Creek

·2 min read
Dead fish can be seen in parts of Wascana Creek, contributing to an odour along the creek. (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)
Dead fish can be seen in parts of Wascana Creek, contributing to an odour along the creek. (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)

Walking around Regina's Wascana Creek can be a tranquil, meditative experience — until an offensive odour wafts into your nostrils.

For several weeks a potent smell has been coming from parts of the creek — which runs out of Wascana Lake — and the water has been discoloured.

The smell and colour are being caused by a buildup of organic matter, according to Kurtis Doney, director of water, waste and environment for the City of Regina.

"Unfortunately it's not uncommon," said Doney.

Organic matter can include droppings from geese and other urban wildlife, according to Doney. Dead fish can also be seen in parts of the creek.

"With the increased amount of high temperatures and really dry [weather], we are seeing some odours from Wascana Creek. Because of the lack of rain, there's very little flow through the creek."

Doney said there isn't much the city can do about the odour or discolouration, but that the problems should clear up on their own once temperatures drop and more precipitation comes.

Although the smell can be similar to that of sewage, Doney said the city regularly tests the water in the creek and confirmed that "at this time there is no known wastewater entering Wascana Creek."

Rob Kruk/CBC
Rob Kruk/CBC

Wascana Lake, meanwhile, is experiencing an abundance of algae, causing a smell of its own.

Sean Osmar, manager of communications for Saskatchewan's Water Security Agency, said the heat and lack of rain have created ideal temperatures for algae growth.

"Sometimes there's a smell and a look to it that's obviously not pleasing," he said, adding that other lakes in southern Saskatchewan are experiencing a similar issue.

"It's a natural formation. It happens in hot, dry years like this year. Once the temperatures cool and rains finally eventually come, that will flush it out and inhibit more growth. But beyond that, there is not much that can be done."

Cory Coleman/CBC
Cory Coleman/CBC

He said snowfall during the winter and melting during the spring will also help balance out the lake.

Algae can have an adverse effect on species in the lake, according to Osmar, because it takes up oxygen.

It can also be toxic for dogs, so dog owners should keep a close eye on their pets while they're at the lake and contact a veterinarian if they suspect their dog has eaten algae.

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