A swan and the lead sinker it swallowed at Atascadero Lake had raised concerns about whether there’s more where that came from, but a recent lab report says the fear of an elevated lead content in the water is unfounded.
The results show a lead content that’s approximately 50 times lower than federal drinking water standards, according to the recent tests commissioned by the city.
Paid for with city park funds, the study was conducted when the public became concerned after a swan swallowed a fisherman’s lead weight in late 2010.
The swan underwent a procedure at Pacific Wildlife Care in Morro Bay to remove the sinker. Volunteers then aided in its recovery from lead poisoning. They re-released the swan to the lake Jan. 24, according to the group’s Facebook page, where they showed it on video.
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The City Council decided the incident was significant enough to warrant spending $435 on testing the waters for lead content.
Currently, there are no federal, state or local laws prohibiting the use of lead sinkers, Atascadero Public Works Director Russ Thompson said.
However, city officials posted new signs around the lake encouraging fishermen not to use lead sinkers, as well as to not leave their hooks and lines behind to prevent wildlife injury.
For the study, the water was taken from three separate locations around the lake and shipped to a certified lab to be tested for lead content, officials said.
The results ranged from 0.2 micrograms per liter, in parts per billion, to 0.3 micrograms per liter, according to the city. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard for concern in drinking water is 15 micrograms per liter.
Based on the results, city staff say there is no cause for concern over lead levels at the lake.
Other water quality issues at the lake continue.
Swimming hasn’t been allowed at the lake, per city law, since May 1985.
That’s mainly because of bird feces in the water, Thompson said.
Secondly, algae blooms that grow in the hot summer months pose a problem to the lake’s fish population. The fish can die from lack of oxygen.
Hundreds of fish died in 2001. About 30 fish deaths followed in 2008.
In September 2009, the city used equipment to pump air into the water to boost the oxygen levels. That system is only implemented when levels are critically low because of the cost, Thompson said.
During hot weather, high temperatures combined with the shallow and stagnant nature of the lake make it susceptible to numerous algae blooms, city officials have said.