Council blames ducks for high E.coli lake reading

Lake Hayes near Queenstown. Image: Bernard Spragg

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) has cleared Queenstown’s Lake Hayes safe to swim in and blamed ducks for an unusually high E.coli reading.

A test of the lake last week showed an E.coli reading of 921/100ml at the popular swimming and camping spot near Arrowtown. A reading of 260/100ml is considered safe to swim in.

The council said the results of a second test conducted on Monday showed levels of the bacteria at 11/100ml.

“This level shows the risk to swimmers was very low on Monday, 18 December, and is at levels that we would normally expect for the lake,” said ORC’s manager of resource science, Dean Olsen.

Last week’s high level may have been caused by ducks.

“At the time of sampling, the staff member collecting the sample noted many ducks in the area being sampled. It’s highly likely this accounted for the high reading,” said Olsen.

“A water sample collected from Mill Creek at the same time is being tested to determine the likely source of any bacterial contamination.”

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult, who lives by the lake, said he was relieved to hear the lake was clean.

“Lake Hayes is one of the most popular swimming spots in the district, particularly with families, so it is a huge relief to hear that the water has been judged safe to swim in by the ORC,” said Boult.

“While we’re happy with these results, we’ll be working closely with our counterparts at the ORC to ensure the public is notified about situations such as this as quickly as possible.”

The ORC had faced criticism for the delay between the initial high readings of the first test results being known and warning signs being placed at the lake.

“We’ll make sure our lines of communication are open and clear for the remainder of the summer,” said Boult.

The warning signs were removed from the lake yesterday.

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