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Paoay Lake is unfit for swimming; the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered a thorough cleansing.

Before Paoay Lake’s new waterpark “inflatable island” can be fully enjoyed by visitors, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suggested a comprehensive cleanup drive surrounding the lake.

This was stated in a January 24, 2022 letter from DENR Regional Executive Director Crizaldy Barcelo to Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc, referring to the waterpark’s projected January 28 opening, which will cover 4,200 square meters of the 387-hectare lake.

The governor’s administration got the DENR letter on Wednesday.

According to a water quality monitoring report and the results of a laboratory examination done on January 21 at Paoay Lake, the lake water is significantly contaminated with E. coli bacteria, exceeding the “level for Class C waters,” and is unsafe to swim in.

E. coli bacteria can be found in the environment, foods, and people’s and animals’ intestines.

The presence of bacteria in one sampling station ranging from 5,400 mpn (most probable number) to 160,000 mpn in another means “the area is only good for fishing and boating.” “, said Victor Dabalos, provincial environment and natural resources officer, to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

The DENR has recommended that “the use of the facilities that involve human contact with the lake water be deferred until such time as the fecal coliform levels have been reduced to meet the DENR standards.” While the Ilocos Norte government may still go ahead with the waterpark’s “ceremonious launching” on January 28, the DENR has recommended that “the use of the facilities that involves human contact with the lake water be deferred until such time as the fecal coli

The administration of Ilocos Norte has yet to provide a formal declaration on the lake’s contamination concern as of this writing.

Municipal environment officer James Galano of Paoay town said Thursday that a meeting with government officials has been scheduled to review the findings and give solutions.

The DENR recommends that the Paoay local government unit conduct an inventory of households, particularly the number of bottomless septic tanks within 100 meters of the Paoay Lake shore, and implement measures to address domestic sewage, as one of the recommendations to reduce the lake’s contamination levels.

While local government officials previously succeeded in removing countless fish cages, poultry, and piggeries from the lakefront, residents are now discouraged from raising livestock and grazing animals there.

The DENR is also considering establishing a Paoay government sewage and septage management program in collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department of Public Works and Highways to prevent household pollutants entering the lake.

Until the epidemic hit the country, the province government had been working to promote the lake as a location for water sports activities since 2010.

The evolution of “The building of the lake waterpark is just one of the numerous ongoing projects of the Ilocos Norte administration to revitalize the province’s ailing tourism economy as a result of mobility limitations imposed by the global pandemic.

During cold spells, migrating birds from Asian countries rush to the lake for temporary shelter, making it a popular site for picnics and birdwatching.

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