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Research conducted by NWCC students helps keep Lakelse Lake clean

A preliminary land survey surrounding Lakelse Lake, completed by five Northwest Community College (NWCC) biology students, has contributed to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikines (RDKS) efforts to develop a more effective septic disposal option for properties at the Lake . To resolve concerns regarding domestic waste water (septic tank effluent) potentially impacting water quality in the Lake, the RDKS has undertaken a Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP). The purpose of this Plan is to identify sewage issues and concerns, evaluate options, and implement preferred solutions. Many of the septic systems around the lake are within the flood plain and/or the 30-metre minimum set-back distance from the Lake and do not meet present standards. Lakelse Lake is a popular residential and regional recreational area for activities such as swimming and fishing and provides value for all of Northwest BC , explained RDKS Planner Ted Pellegrino. This project, therefore, is important not only to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine but to the local communities and the entire region. As part of their Biology 211 Principles of Ecology course, NWCC students Tracey Sam, Amrita Gill and Brianna Benzer from Terrace, Anna Rei-Jones from Smithers and Janis Webb from Prince Rupert, under the direction of University Credit Instructor Dr. Norma Kerby, conducted a preliminary survey of potential sites to build cluster sewer treatment systems. The concept of cluster systems is to collect wastewater from a number of septic systems and treat the wastewater at a location with the appropriate soil condition, distance and elevation from the Lake. The students research involved studying maps and investigating the west side of Lakelse Lake. After studying the forest and ground, and taking and testing soil samples and percolation rates for seven potential sites, the students concluded two of the sites were potentially suitable to accommodate cluster septic systems. The students research saved us a lot of work by ruling out potential areas we otherwise wouldnt have known to exclude, and we appreciate the work of Dr. Kerby and her class, Pellegrino said. Well now take their information to a higher level by focusing in on the sites the students identified and conducting additional investigation. It was a really good experience, said University Credit student and project participant, Tracey Sam of Terrace. The field trips made it easier to understand the concepts we were learning in the course. Also, the class was small, which gave us the chance to work closely together as one group. We would end our days thinking, This is fun. Working to provide solutions to real life problems in the community is an effective and gratifying way for students to learn course material, explained instructor Kerby. By working with the local Regional District, these students had the chance to practice their skills and realize they could succeed. The students presented their results to the RDKS late last year. Their findings were compiled and bound into a report, which is available at the Northwest Community College library. The RDKSs Lakelse Lake Liquid Waste Management Plan received Regional District Board approval on March 28, 2008 and is now waiting for approval from the Ministry of Environment. A copy of the plan is on the Regional Districts web site

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