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The Savane stream under the microscope of scientists

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec17,2023

The Savane Creek under the magnifying glass of scientists

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The Savane stream, near the old sanitary landfill.

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The presence of heavy metals in the Savane stream, which flows into the Rimouski river, worries researchers from UQAR and the OBV in the northeast of Bas-Saint-Laurent. They particularly fear the effects of this contamination on the river's fish populations, particularly those of salmon.

A team of chemists and biologists is currently conducting a study to learn more about the sources of contamination in the stream and their consequences on aquatic life.

It is the unusual appearance that the watercourse sometimes takes on that served as a spark for this research project.

In Beauséjour Park is a place where we take walks, where we cycle, and cross-country ski, underlines professor of environmental chemistry at UQAR Richard St-Louis.

Walking along the Savane stream, I realized that there was a color which distinguished it from the others: an orange background, a little rust-colored, which we do not see on the other streams in the park.

A quote from Richard St-Louis, professor of environmental chemistry at the 'UQAR

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Odors also emanate from the watercourse.

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The Savane stream sometimes takes on an orange tint.

After observing this phenomenon, Richard St-Louis decided to carry out a preliminary study which made it possible to detect abnormally high concentrations of iron and manganese.

We normally find them in streams, but there, it was in much larger quantities, notes the project manager for the Watershed Organization, Karine Blouin. It exceeded the criteria for protecting aquatic life.

Traces of arsenic were also detected.

These preliminary data led to the research project launched this fall by the laboratory of Professor St-Louis and the OBV of the northeast of Bas-Saint-Laurent.

The study aims, among other things, to determine where the contaminants detected in the stream come from, and then implement actions to protect the watercourse and the species that live there.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Savane Creek runs alongside a former sanitary landfill and is near Highway 20, two potential sources of contamination. It also crosses agricultural land, another hypothesis studied by researchers to explain the traces of heavy metals detected in the Savane stream.

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The Savane Creek flows into the Rimouski River near the Highway 20 bridge.

We really have sampling points distributed throughout the stream to determine where exactly the source of the contamination comes from, explains Karine Blouin.

Samples taken near the Gates of Hell canyon, a place that is virtually untouched by human actions, serve as a reference to determine whether anthropogenic pressures are the cause of the contamination.< /p>

Scientists also wish to determine whether the junction of the Savane stream and the Rimouski river serves as a thermal refuge for the fish that live there.

A refuge thermal, it is a space where the water is cooler, permanently, explains Karine Blouin. When there are major heatwaves and the water temperature in the river rises enormously, these are places where the fish will be able to go to cool off.

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Contaminants present in the Savane stream could have effects on the salmon of the Rimouski River . (Archive photos)

If the confluence of the two rivers actually serves as a thermal refuge, the effects on the fish that cool off there could therefore be significant.

According to the OBV, all the conditions are met to form a thermal refuge at this location. Next summer, observations and temperature measurements will make it possible to determine whether this is indeed the case.

The study will take place over the next three years. In light of the results, measures should then be put in place.

Could it be plantations close to the landfill site, to try to retain heavy metals? Could these be treatments done in the stream? Or just awareness? We are still at the stage where we are waiting to determine what actions we could take, says Karine Blouin.

The project manager adds that the data collected could also be used to guide managers of other salmon rivers in the province.

This is not the only stream that passes through a landfill and flows into a major river, such as the Rimouski River. It serves as a bit of a model to also determine what is happening elsewhere and what we can do to resolve the problems.

A quote from Karine Blouin, project manager for the OBV of the northeast of Bas-Saint-Laurent

To complete their study, the OBV and UQAR received a grant of $250,000 from the ministry of Environment Canada. The researchers are still looking for a master's student in biology to complete their team.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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