Testing water
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Who do we contact to do water safety tests on our lake?

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Our dog is always in the lake as soon as the ice melts after the winter. This year when he came out of the water, he stank of sewage. Who do we contact to conduct water safety tests due to this problem?
—Sniffing Out a Problem

The government wants to know when pollutants “abnormal in quality or quantity”—including sewage, or agricultural or other wastes—suddenly get into the water. If you suspect that’s what’s happened, contact your provincial ministry of the environment. (Environment Canada lists phone numbers on their website, and Ontario has a dedicated Spills Action Centre.) You can also check with a local source: your lake association, conservation authority, municipality, or public health office. Someone may already know about a problem, or have recent test results. Want to take matters into your own hands? Have a sample of the lake water analyzed by a municipal health lab or a private lab. To get accurate results for a lake, it’s best to get several samples, at different locations and at different times.

On the other hand, if the only evidence of lake stink is the stench coming off your dog…it might just be the dog. Lake water can cause Max or Buddy to reek (worse than the usual Wet Dog Smell), especially if he’s a long-haired or thick-coated breed, and especially when wet. The dog’s fur absorbs bacteria and organic matter from the lake. Since lakes change naturally throughout the year, this can affect the stink factor.