BOISE – Several people in Boise's North End are frustrated with an irrigation canal that, throughout the day, will turn white and murky. The reason why is a mystery.
Homeowners are leading the charge, working with several government agencies to figure out the source of the white film that sits on top of the water near 14th and Jefferson streets.
Depending on the time of the day the water was so white you couldn't see through it. Sean Pursley is just one of the many people frustrated with the dirty water.
"It's my yard, it's the nature that I have to live with," said Pursley.
He noticed the changing color when he moved in five years ago. He reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency in March to look for answers when the situation got worse.
"Everything was dead. The red-sided shiners, the crawdads. The only thing that survived are the gold fish, but they're pretty hardy," said Pursley.
The canal is owned by the Boise City Canal Company. It runs through Boise, mostly underground, but has sections where the canal is exposed.
Now that the water is no longer as picturesque as it once was, it's also affecting nearby vegetation.
"It was always filled with a green grass, even in the winter time, what I have seen is an absolute decimation of almost all the plant life in my section of the canal," said Susan Hasbrouck-Watkins.
Hasbrouck-Watkins took a picture a few summers ago showing just how green the canal was. Now the grass is dead.
So she took a sample of the water out in front of her home and took it to a lab to be tested. The results show a high level of bacteria in the water.
"He said that was a huge red flag for the health of our canal," said Hasbrouck-Watkins.
The concern is that this water is used to water gardens and yards. Pets drink out of it and in the summer kids even play in it.
The canal company is looking for answers as well.
"We've been trying to track it, trying to trace where it's coming from, but the source is still elusive as of today," said Alan Winkle with the Boise City Canal Company.
Thursday morning Hasbrouck-Watkins met up with Pursley to get another sample, this time, scrapping the white film off the top of the water.
"Our next step is to test the samples that Susan has pulled. Start to work on what is in the water, what that does and then start to backtrack into who would have that source of material," said Winkle.
While they don’t know what the white is, they do know that it’s not milk. There’s a dairy nearby one of the openings. The city tested the dairy’s drains and the water in the canal and came to the conclusion that the white is not milk.
The new tests will look for fecal matter, phosphorus, nitrogen, E. coli and salmonella. Those results could take a couple of weeks.
Right now, the water in the canal doesn't come from the Boise River. The source is actually from street drains, buildings downtown or even geothermal water during the winter.