Have you heard of blue-green algae?

Photo shows the difference in appearance that blue-algae blooms have.

Kate Lovsin,
Watershed Cooordinator,
Lesser Slave Watershed Council

Have you heard of blue-green algae?

It is the green film that you see on the surface of lakes or stagnant water.

Blue-green algae’s official name is “cyanobacteria” and it comes in all shapes and sizes.

Alberta is home to over 100 different species of blue-green algae.

You may have heard that blue-green algae are dangerous, and in some cases this is true.

When the conditions are right in the summer months, algae growth can boom, causing an algal bloom.

Some algal blooms produce toxins that can be dangerous to humans and animals alike.

These toxins can give those who come in contact with them skin irritation, and rashes.

If the harmful algae are ingested, the algae can cause fevers, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, a sore throat, and diarrhea.

This goes for humans and our domestic animals like our pet dogs.

There are many things that can influence the growth of algae in our waterbodies.

Algae thrive in hot, well oxygenated water that has ample nutrients to grow, with phosphorus being the key, limiting nutrient to algal blooms.

The things that we do on the land can affect the nutrient levels in the lake. Some phosphorus exists in lakes naturally, and some is transported in by our tributaries.

The majority of phosphorus that enters the system comes from our atmosphere, but some of this phosphorus comes from farm runoff.

Luckily in our watershed, the majority of phosphorus comes from natural sources, but it is important to do our part to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other contaminants from getting into the water supply.

Lesser Slave Lake is a eutrophic lake, which means that it is nutrient rich in nature. Algal blooms are a natural part of the system but need to be monitored to ensure the health and safety of everyone depending on the lake in some way.

As mentioned before, there are over 100 different kinds of blue-green algae in the province of Alberta, and they all look different.

Each type of algae can be a different shade of blue and/or green and can come in a combination of algae species.

This is why it is critical to check with local authorities, watch for signs, ensure that you do not ingest lake water whenever possible and always proceed with caution if you don’t know if the water is safe.

Not sure where to look to learn if there is an algal bloom on your favourite body of water?

Check out Alberta Health Services’ website at s://www.albertahealthservices.ca/news/bga.aspx to find all the active advisories in the province.

If you have a concern about blue-green algae, you can report concerns to the Environmental Hotline at (1-800) 222-6514.

If you are looking for further information about the health effects of blue-green algae, contact Health Link Alberta at 811.

Sign at Devonshire Beach at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park show the kinds of advisories for people to look out for before they recreate in the water.

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