The recent discovery for the first time of blue-green algae in Red Deer’s park system may be the beginning of a recurring problem.
The City of Red Deer issued a blue-green algae advisory on one of the ponds at Three Mile Bend in September. Signs were posted there alerting the public.
Trevor Poth, City of Red Deer Parks superintendent, said the blue-green algae, which was still present in the pond last week, was unique for any of the city’s ponds. It is expected to diminish with cold weather but there is good chance it will reoccur in the future.
In other municipalities where the algae has occurred, it does tend to come back, Poth said.
He now believes the city will have to pay very close attention to the matter in coming years. “We’ll certainly be watching it in the spring.”
“We’re taking it really seriously but we’re not trying to be alarmist in our approach,” he said.
The city has been keeping a close eye on other park ponds such as at Bower Ponds, Mckenzie Trails and Lower Heritage Ranch but has not seen any other blue-green algae. Neighbourhood ponds are far less of a concern because they are attached to the city’s storm drainage system and therefore have flowing water.
Blue-green algae can contain toxins that are poisonous. If contact occurs, it should be washed off with clean water as soon as possible. The water in ponds is safe as long as people and pets avoid direct contact with the blue-green algae bloom. If the algae can’t be seen then it’s not there, said Poth.
“The really important message around the blue-green algae is what we want people to do is to look at the water before they actually access it. And if you can’t see the algae, the water is totally safe.”
The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club, which has a training jump into a pond at Three Mile Bend, has been following the same process of making a visual inspection before allowing any of their athletes in the water, Poth said.
It is likely the early dry spring and warm temperatures, and then a lot of rain in August, is the biggest reason the blue-green algae occurred, he said.
Also contributing to the problem would be the “high nutrient load” going into the ponds because the area is an off-leash dog park. The city does send in a contractor twice a year to pick up dog waste even though many dog owners do follow the rules and pick it up themselves.
“A lot of the runoff through the off-leash park probably has a fair amount of fertilizer coming from pet waste,” Poth said.
The ponds at Three Mile Bend are located on an old gravel mining site, and are not directly connected to the Red Deer River, so there is no flowing water through them.
The city will lift the advisory at Three Mile Bend only after they have had at least one week of no sightings of blue-green algae.
Detailed information about blue-green algae can be found on Alberta Health Services website at www.albertahealthservices.ca/10189.asp