Better lake protection against algae sought

An early-season blue-green algae alert has shut down much activity on Pine Lake because of the potential for illness and even death, and according to one expert, better lakeshore protection is needed instead of development.

An early-season blue-green algae alert has shut down much activity on Pine Lake because of the potential for illness and even death, and according to one expert, better lakeshore protection is needed instead of development.

A week ago, Alberta Health Services issued a blue-green algae advisory for the lake east of Innisfail.

David Schindler, a University of Alberta biology professor, said shallow Alberta lakes are very susceptible to these alerts and the occurrences do pre-date development.

However, he said humans do a lot to exacerbate the increase of phosphorus into the lakes, which causes blue-green algae blooms to occur more frequently.

“Septic tanks, land clearing for cottages and agriculture, fertilizing fields, lawns and gardens, pet excrement all cause increased inputs, especially of phosphorus,” wrote Schindler in an email to the Advocate.

“Our studies show that most lakes in Central Alberta have increased two-to-three-fold in phosphorus inputs since the mid-20th century.

“The key to preventing blue-green algae involves better management of the phosphorus entering the lake.

“Society is too weak-willed to deal with the problem. Less development, less use of fertilizer, more protection of lakeshores are what we need.

“People ignore this need, and are continually sold ‘magic bullet’ solutions like bubblers, copper sulfate, compounds to lock phosphorus in sediments, etc. Some of these have a short-term effect, but none is a long-term solution, being overwhelmed by development,” said Schindler.

“At 74, having spent my life determining how to control these blooms but everyone simply ignoring the evidence and continuing to destroy our lakes, I am very sad.”

Lakes in Alberta are monitored by summer students working as public health inspectors, under the supervision of professional inspectors.

The students take samples from the lake for cell and microcystins, one of the toxins, and also observe the lake.

Dr. Digby Horne, AHS Central Zone medical officer of health, said these advisories happen every year in certain lakes, but are pretty unpredictable.

Pine Lake has had a blue-green algae advisory for many years, including consecutively since 2011.

The alerts typically come later in the summer.

“Often the recommendation is made on visual evidence of a bloom because it can sometimes take a while for the microcystin toxic levels and algae cell counts to be determined,” said Horne.

“If they see a bloom, then they post an advisory at the lake right away.”

A 2012 study published by 16 scientists in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science found the highest concentration of microcystins in many Albertan lakes, including Pine Lake.

Blue-green algae can be fueled by sunlight, higher temperature, nutrient loading to the lake or even water turbulence.

“The algae can make themselves more or less buoyant and they can do that in relationship to turbulence in the water,” said Horne.

Horne said blue-green algae can also be fuelled by fertilizers from land adjacent to the lake getting washed into the lake by rain.

“You provide more nutrients to blue-green algae, when conditions are right,” said Horne.

The toxins can still exist after the bloom has disappeared from site.

Horne said there are neuro and liver toxins.

“If you were to get enough of a neuro toxin or liver toxin, this happens with animals sometimes, you can get death within several days,” said Horne.

It would take a significant amount of exposure, either through contact or ingestion, for death to occur, but it is still a possibility. Horne said age would be a factor as young and elderly people may have reduced ability to fend off toxic effects.

“The advisory could be on for some time, right up to November,” said Horne, adding cooler temperatures can help alleviate the issue.

As part of the warning, people are advised to not drink the water; not swim or wade; avoid contact with algae along the shoreline; do not feed whole fish or fish trimmings from this lake to pets and limit consumption of whole fish and fish trimmings from the lake.

Fish fillets can be safely consumed.

People who come into contact with or ingest the water may experience skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Anyone who suspects a blue-green algae problem, or if you require more information, call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read