FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -With warmer weather temperatures many people are out enjoying lakes in northern B.C. it is important to stay healthy around algae blooms while enjoying the water.
Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms may appear in lakes across northern B.C. Blue-green algae are naturally occurring and can look like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of the water. Blue-green algae can be blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, or pinkish-red, and often smells musty or grassy, shares Northern Health.
People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae, or who ingest water containing toxins from blue-green algae, may experience skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. According to Northern Health symptoms usually, appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days. Symptoms in children are often more pronounced.
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.
Northern Health is reminding people that weather and wind conditions can cause algae blooms to move from one location in the lake to another. Given the shifting nature of algae blooms it is safest to apply the most rigorous precautions around blooms, or areas of the waterbody historically affected by blooms.
If you suspect a problem related to blue-green algae you are welcome to connect with the Ministry of Environment at EnvironmentalComplaints@gov.bc.ca.
If you require further information on health concerns, call Environmental Health at 250-565-2150.
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