Residents worried birds are contaminating water with bacteria from nearby landfill

BROCKTON – Among the more printable names a thesaurus gives for seagulls are scavenger gulls, seaside ravens, beach pterodactyls and rats with wings.

The Lake Rosalind and Marl Lake property owners associations have another term: possible health hazard.

The two groups sent letters to both Hanover and Brockton councils expressing concern over the increase in the seagull population and the impact on lake water quality used for recreational and drinking water purposes.

The letter notes the lake residents were assured during the landfill expansion public consultation that the seagull numbers would be closely monitored and controlled. The letter states the number of seagulls reported by the Hanover-Walkerton waste management committee is very much at odds with what the lake associations are seeing. 

“Residents witness large numbers of seagulls migrating from the landfill to the lakes on a daily basis. Over 500 seagulls have been counted on the lakes at a single time and over 100 gulls move back and forth from the lakes to the landfill daily. The gulls are feeding on the trash from the landfill, flying to the lake to wash/drink and contaminating the lakes with feces which are rich in bacteria and phosphorous.”

The letter describes birds often having to be rescued from plastic bags caught on their bodies.

The main concern, though, is the birds’ feces contaminating the water with bacteria from the landfill.

The staff report presented to council acknowledged the presence of seagulls at the landfill, it also said “seagulls are prevalent around water sources and this may not fully be attributable to the Hanover-Walkerton landfill site.”

Coun. Kym Hutcheon commented that the bulldozer that moves and covers the garbage needs to be doing it with greater frequency than daily, as is required.

Coun. Tim Elphick expressed sympathy with the lake residents and said the committee continues to work on the issue. He discussed the use of a hawk to control the seagull population – which has already been done, with limited success but which could be looked at again. Elphick assured council the seagull numbers continue to be monitored daily – it varies between four and 44.

Coun. Carl Kuhnke spoke not as a council member but as chair of the local drinking water source protection committee. Kuhnke noted the difficulty in maintaining the water quality at the lakes (Marl and Rosalind). 

“I suggest we monitor the water quality,” he said, referring to requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Mayor Chris Peabody had a high-tech suggestion – lasers. He said a letter sent by Abell Pest Control discussed the use of lasers to deter seagulls, and suggested the landfill committee should investigate the possibility of conducting an experiment with them.

He noted there had been a number of mitigation measures promised during the 2010 landfill expansion process, including a berm and tree planting, which were not followed up “with any great deal of vigour.”

The mayor suggested sending a letter back to the committee asking that they consider that laser experiment.

“There’s no doubt seagulls are attracted by the garbage, and they are on the lake,” said Peabody, who noted the lakes account for 18 per cent of the municipality’s tax base.

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 18, 2023 at 07:30

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated