KAWARTHA LAKES-Summer weather has arrived in the Kawarthas and with it comes the potential for blue-green algae (BGA) blooms, also known as harmful algae blooms (HABs), to form in lakes, rivers, and creeks throughout the region.
To help the community better understand the threats posed by blue-green algae, Kawartha Conservation has teamed up with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) on an online campaign to educate the public on how to identify and report blue-green algae and its impact on humans and animals.
In the summer of 2020 blooms were reported in Lake Scugog. Areas such as Kingston, Thunder Bay, Wildwood Reservoir and Manitouwabing Lake in the Township of McKellar have also reported sightings of this algae.
The campaign kicked off on Wednesday, June 15 and will run throughout the summer and into early fall when HABs are most common.
As warm and sunny weather continues to extend further into the fall as a result of a changing climate, conditions are becoming more suitable for the growth of blue-green algae in the Kawartha Lakes and surrounding regions according to Kawartha Conservation.
“If you’ve never encountered blue-green algae before, you might be unsure of how to identify or protect yourself, your family, and pets from it,” said Kawartha Conservation Water Quality Specialist Tanner Liang. “By learning how to identify blue-green algae through this campaign and reporting your sighting, you’re doing your part to protect our lakes, as well as the people and animals that call them home.”
Blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Although often blue-green, they can also be olive-green or red.
Blue-green algae are not normally visible in the water, but populations can rapidly increase to form a large mass or scum called a bloom when conditions are favourable according to the Ontario governement.
Blooms most commonly occur in late summer and early fall. They thrive in areas where the water is shallow, slow moving and warm, but they may be present in deeper, cooler water. Dense blue-green algae blooms may make the water look bluish-green, or like green pea soup or turquoise paint. Very dense blooms may form solid-looking clumps. Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass, while older blooms may smell like rotting garbage.
Officials say take a cautious approach, as some varieties of this algae can produce toxins that are harmful to both humans and animals.
If you suspect a blue-green algal bloom:
- assume toxins are present
- avoid using, drinking, bathing or swimming in the water (call your local health unit for swimming advisories)
- restrict pet and livestock access to the water
Contact your local health unit for information on health risks associated with blue-green algal blooms.