FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Residents in the North Peace are being advised about the presence of algae blooms that have appeared in Charlie Lake.
Blooms of algae were photographed earlier this week by staff members at Poor Boy Trucking, who spotted a turquoise-coloured slime on the lake’s surface.
Blue-green algae – or cyanobacteria – is naturally occurring and can look like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of the water.
The blooms can be blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, or pinkish-red, and often smell musty or grassy.
Bruce Kosugi, who is a director on the Board of the Charlie Lake Conservation Society, said that algal blooms are an annual occurrence on the surface of Charlie Lake since the lake’s hydrology is well-suited for the algae to thrive.
“It’s nothing new. There’s evidence of it going back hundreds of years from the sediment studies that have been done. It’s a shallow lake and it’s nutrient-rich. The summer conditions lend to the formation of different algae, but at this time of year, the blue-green algae does start to bloom.”
At the beginning of July, Northern Health issued a bulletin reminding residents of precautions they need to take if they encounter blue-green algae.
Kosugi said that the main issue with the algae occurs when it begins to die off, during which some species of the algae releases toxins as the algae’s cells break down.
People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae, or who ingest water containing blue-green algae, may experience skin irritation, a rash, a sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, and potentially develop a fever, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days.
“You can still boat in it, but you don’t want to swim where there are these obviously thick blooms of algae, and you want to keep your pets out of there,” added Kosugi.
Residents living near the shores of lakes, as well as visitors and those making day-use of lakes, are advised to take the following precautions:
- Avoid all contact with blue-green algae blooms. If contact occurs, wash with tap water as soon as possible.
- Do not swim or wade (or allow your pets to swim or wade) in any areas where blue-green algae are visible.
- As a reminder, Northern Health recommends that visitors and residents do not drink or cook with untreated water directly from any lake at any time. Boiling lake water will not remove the toxins produced by blue-green algae.
- An alternate source of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock. Pet owners should be wary of allowing pets to walk off-leash where they may be able to drink lake water – illnesses are a common outcome.
Anyone who suspects a problem related to blue-green algae can connect with the Ministry of Environment at [email protected]. If you require further information on health concerns, please call Environmental Health at 250-565-2150. Additional information is also available at http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile47.stm.