Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in county
A blue-green algae bloom was confirmed on Big Brother Lake in Algonquin Highlands earlier this month.
Although the bloom has since dissipated, the township and the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations are advising residents to be vigilant, to know the signs of blue-green algae blooms, and how to respond to them.
“After years of doing all the best that everybody can, with supporting various programs and encouraging as much stewardship as we can in a variety of ways, the blue-green algae has come to visit,” Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said during a Sept. 20 council meeting.
Blue-green algae, when it forms in clumps, or blooms, on the water’s surface, can have toxic effects, both for aquatic ecosystems, but also for humans and animals. There has been a spike in the number of blue-green algae blooms in Ontario in recent years, and contributing factors include high levels of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen in lakes; nutrients that can leach from septic systems, as well as end up in lakes as the result of agricultural or storm water runoff.
The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks was notified of a potential bloom on Big Brother Lake on Sept. 7, and samples were taken. Those samples were picked up on Sept. 10.
“They did confirm that a bloom was present on the lake, however, it had dissipated by the time they picked up the sample,” Algonquin Highlands planner Sean O’Callaghan said during last week’s meeting. “That being said, it’s always possible for blue-green algae to return.”
The township issued a letter of notification to residents in the vicinity of Big Brother Lake, and Moffatt said she’d like to see tips from the health unit on dealing with algae blooms put in an easily accessible place on the township’s website.
Both Moffatt and Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen expressed dismay that the health unit did not have the staff resources to contact area residents, and Moffatt suggested that the issue could be taken to the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference.
While there have been some other suspected sightings of blue-green algae blooms in the county this summer, including one in the Eagle Lake area, CHA chairman Paul MacInnes told the paper the bloom on Big Brother Lake was the only confirmed one that he was aware of.
MacInnes emphasized the serious health risks that blooms present. While healthy adults who swim in or consume water from a water body with blue-green algae in it may experience some unpleasant side effects, blooms can be potentially fatal for the elderly or very young children. Dogs, he said, can easily die from drinking water from a lake where an algae bloom is present.