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Researchers shed light on health of Southampton's Fairy Lake

Initial project findings and recommendations presented to Saugeen Shores Council

Coarse sediments from nearby storm drains are seeping into Southampton’s beloved Fairy Lake and affecting water quality, according to initial findings from a multi-year study into the health of the lake.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo’s Department of Biology presented their preliminary analysis to the Town of Saugeen Shores Council tonight, saying that they had detected the presence of bacteria, possibly road salt, and most likely phosphorous and nitrogen from surrounding agricultural and residential land.

The researchers also found a higher-than-normal pH level in the lake, as well as evidence of contamination that could be due to goose or dog feces.

But the researchers also said that steps can be taken to begin restoring the lake to health.

Led by Dr. Rebecca Rooney and Dr. Heidi Swanson, the research team began studying the current condition of the lake last year—first mapping the two-square-kilometre drainage area of Fairy Lake and then sampling and surveying the lake’s plants, animals, water and sediment.

The work is continuing this summer and beyond, but the research findings so far show that while Common Carp are present in the lake, they are only part of a complex environmental problem. As for another prominent invasive species in the lake, Curly-leaf Pondweed is oxygenating the water and providing fish habitat, though it does present a danger to other area lakes if not carefully managed.

At this time, researchers presented the following recommendations on improving the health of Fairy Lake:

  • Focus on water quality at the source by integrating a treatment wetland with settling basin to help treat stormwater before it enters the lake, in regard to existing and future developments

  • Stop feeding geese in and around the lake

  • Soften and naturalize the shoreline along High Street using native grasses, which helps deter geese and benefits other birds

  • Post ‘stop the spread’ signage to help contain the Curly-leaf Pondweed and consider building a gear cleaning station so boaters can remove vegetation from their boats before and after using in the lake

"I want to thank the research team, Bruce Power and our other partners for this comprehensive study of an important landmark,” said Mayor Luke Charbonneau. “Part of the Town’s mission is to protect its natural resources and assets in a sustainable manner. We look forward to receiving the recommendations and considering them as part of our future capital plans.”

The project team will host a public information session in the coming months, inviting anyone interested in Fairy Lake to hear from researchers and learn more about the project.

The ecological restoration project is being administered by the Nuclear Innovation Institute’s Environment@NII program and funded by Bruce Power, the Town of Saugeen Shores, University of Waterloo and Invasive Phragmites Control Centre, in partnership with the Historic Saugeen Métis, who have a long connection to this natural waterbody.

Learn more about other Environment@NII research projects by visiting nii.ca/environment-at-nii.