01/15/2015 08:18 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT

Natural springs in North Vancouver clogged with drinkers

A growing number of people are trekking to Lynn Headwaters Park, in North Vancouver, B.C., to fill up jugs of fresh spring water from a pool at the bottom of a steep slope.

The water gatherers are part of a devoted group who abstain from using treated municipal tap water in favour of water straight from the earth.  

Aficionados say spring water is chlorine free and has more minerals than tap water. 

Matt Thompson runs in the area and often stops to fill-up his water bottle. 

"It's about as fresh as water gets," said Thompson. 

Next to the springs, though, is a warning sign that advises the water could contain pollutants, bacteria and viruses. 

Thompson isn't concerned. 

 "If you look what's up here its a bunch of rain forest and the water itself has been coming, it's filtered all the way through this ground. There's lots of gravel. And, as far as what it's filtering through, there's not much agriculture and industry here," said Thompson. 

Health officials, however, say much of the water is run-off which is subject to contamination by people, animals, and birds. 

They say the idea of pure spring water is more emotion, than fact.

"If you were to take samples of water quality and analyze them you would find a percentage of them, if not all of them, contaminated with indicator organisms of bacteria such as E.coli," said Len Clarkson, a water specialist with Vancouver Coastal Health. 

"If it's untreated spring water I would say it's only a matter of time before you become sick with it and hopefully it's just a mild illness like a diarrhea illness," said Clarkson.

Despite the caution, the spring has become more and more popular with people willing to take chances of encountering parasites like giardia and cryptosporidium. 

Isabel Lange uses the water for drinking and cooking. 

"I was not interested in buying bottled water anymore and this is perfect. It's living water. It comes out of the mountain," said Lange. 

On weekends, there are often lineups of people waiting to collect the free spring water.