Blue-green algae advisory still in effect
Lot owner expresses concern for Vincent Lake
The term blue-green algae has become a familiar one this summer, with lakes across the province testing positive for the toxin, including nearby Vincent Lake and more recently, Stoney Lake and Kehewin Lake as well. The appearance of blue-green algae has at least one lake lot owner concerned.
In late June, Barb Hazenveld purchased a lot at Vincent Lake. After looking at lakeside properties elsewhere in the province, Hazenveld says she found Vincent Lake to be very nice, usually quiet, and affordable. Purchasing the property seemed to make sense, especially since Hazenveld has good friends with property at the lake too.
“The water quality of the lake was bad in late July, starting to fill up with algae,” says Hazenveld, via email with the St. Paul Journal, from her home in southern Alberta. “We heard it would be like this, but didn't really believe it until we saw how bad it really was. It was a shock.”
Hazenveld says it’s disheartening to see the blue-green algae on the lake, and believes that if people exercised more care around the lake, it might be avoided. People are cutting down trees and shrubs to improve their view of the lake, Hazenveld charged, adding, “This is not only illegal according to the Environmental Reserve bylaws, but also allows pollutants to drain directly into the lake.”
Along with posing a significant health risk, Hazenveld feels that having blue-green algae in the lake also decreases property values. She then points to information recently released by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) that states wetlands play a significant role in filtering the water that goes into lakes and rivers, yet wetlands continue to disappear.
The information released by DUC on Aug. 15 points to a report published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences which indicates the “potent liver toxin” was found in every province, with the highest concentrations in central Alberta and southern Manitoba.
Algae blooms affect summer recreational activities that would otherwise be taking place at these lakes, and can be lethal to fish and other wildlife. The blooms could even start influencing property values on the affected lakes, says the information from DUC.
“The state of some of our Canadian lakes is very unfortunate and something needs to be done to prevent further decay,” said Shane Gabor, research biologist at Ducks Unlimited Canada, in the release. “The solution is clear, if we want cleaner lakes, the first step is to put a stop to wetland drainage in order to protect these important ecosystems.”
When wetlands are drained, it results in water flowing off the land and with it excess nutrients, sediment, pesticides and pathogens, which then contribute to the decreasing water quality in lakes and rivers, says DUC. Phosphorus is one of the key contributors to algae formation.
DUC believes that wetland conservation and restoration might be one of the most effective ways to protect lakes.
Alberta Health Services issued a blue-green algae advisory on July 12 for Vincent Lake and on Aug. 23 an advisory was issued for Kehewin Lake, then on Aug. 29 one was issued for Stoney Lake.
Carrie Sancartier, a spokesperson with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, says that blue-green algae are naturally occurring in Alberta lakes, because of how the lakes were originally formed and the fact that Alberta lakes are typically nutrient-rich.
But human activity and weather can impact how blue-green algae appear. The heat over the summer months has had an impact this year, which makes it frustrating because people want to use the lakes especially when it’s hot, she says.
Along with not drinking water from the lakes, the AHS advisories recommend people do not swim or wade in the water, or even allow pets to swim in the lake. People are encouraged to avoid contact with the blue-green algae along the shoreline and should not consume any fish from the lake.
Blue-green algae produce a toxin that can cause illness to animals and humans, says AHS. Symptoms of coming in contact with or ingesting blue-green algae can include skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea.
“We can all do our bit to try and preserve nature in the best way,” says Hazenveld, adding, “The view will still be there, just walk down to the lake and enjoy it. Don't kill the lake by trying to look at it.”
People looking for more health-related information on blue-green algae can contact Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.
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