Alarmed by unsafe levels of phosphorous finding its way into Gull Lake, local activists are proposing ways to filter streams emptying into the lake.
Gull Lake Watershed Society is heading the proposal to buy enough land from an area farmer to build a 40-acre wetlands at the south end of Gull Lake. As well, the society is proposing to install “geotubes,” giant sacks made of a fine mesh that can capture contaminants before they hit the lake.
Lacombe County and Ponoka County will be asked to provide $160,000 each over four years to support the projects. The Summer Village of Parkland Beach has offered $28,000 over four years and the Summer Village of Gull Lake $26,000 contingent on the county funding coming through.
Society past-president Craig MacLeod told Lacombe County council last Friday that nutrient loading in streams has been measured at 24 to 80 times the historically safe recommended phosphorous levels.
While phosphorous levels — largely caused by agricultural runoff — have remained relatively constant over the last five years, there is a danger that the accumulated amounts could cause a future disaster.
That scenario played out on Pigeon Lake, where phosphorous trapped in lake mud and sediments was disturbed and released. The result has been years of blue-green algae warnings. The algae is a bacteria that causes skin irritation, sore throat and nausea.
“It’s like a nuclear bomb,” he said describing the environmental impact on the lake. “The horse is out of the barn at that point.”
To improve the quality of water draining into the lake, the society has proposed installing the geotubes at six sites.
As well, a wetlands would be created at the south end of the lake in an area now being used to graze cattle.
“What we’re looking at is creating a wetlands park,” he said, adding there would be information posted about the purpose of the feature and its ecology. “It would be a really neat feature to have there.”
Lacombe County council referred the funding to administration to prepare a report that will come back to a future meeting.