Meeting to examine blue-green algae in area lakes

An informational session this Friday night, May 30, in Bentley will discuss the problem of blue-green algae in Gull and Sylvan Lakes and try to find some possible solutions.

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An informational session this Friday night, May 30, in Bentley will discuss the problem of blue-green algae in Gull and Sylvan Lakes and try to find some possible solutions.

As area residents and lake users look forward to another season, or at least a few visits to Sylvan and/or Gull Lake, some may be wondering if blue-green algae blooms will once again curtail their enjoyment of the water.

“Blue-green algae are not really algae at all, but bacteria that harvest sunlight for energy, similar to plants,” said Christina Pickles, a team leader with the Alberta Conservation Team (ACT). “Under the right conditions like fertile waters and warm, sunny days, they can quickly grow to form large colonies or blooms on the water surface. Pungent odours often accompany these blooms as they are literally cooked by the sun and decomposed by microbes.”

Other than the rather unpleasant looking floating scum and terrible smell that is produced during decomposition, Pickles said there are some bigger risks involved for humans and especially their pets.

“Aside from aesthetic and recreational concerns with blue-green algae blooms, humans are at risk from the toxins they produce,” she said. “These toxins include skin irritants and liver and nervous system toxins. Contact or consumption of the lake water in the vicinity of blue-green blooms should be avoided, especially by pets and children.”

Pickles said the microbes decompose the algae and consume dissolved oxygen to the point where other organisms in the water begin to suffocate. At the same time, the algae release toxins as a defense mechanism against predators but the toxins further compound the problem by putting even more organisms at risk.

As for a solution, Pickles said it depends on a number of factors.

“Sylvan and Gull Lakes are similar to many lakes in central Alberta. Soil in and surrounding the lake is naturally rich in nutrients and human development has directed more nutrients to the lakes which promotes algal blooms,” she said. “While we cannot control all factors, we can reduce nutrient amounts entering both Sylvan and Gull Lakes. By preserving natural vegetation around the lake, avoiding fertilizers, maintaining septic systems and cleaning up pet waste, we can help reduce nutrient levels in the lake.”

Having said that, Pickles acknowledged that there is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to a solution for the blue-green algae except to minimize both the blooms that they produce and the human impact on the lakes.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Blindman Valley Ag Centre in Bentley.

For more information, those interested can contact Christina Pickles at 780-422-5513.

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