By Sue Tiffin
Two lakes in Muskoka have visible blue-green algae blooms this month but Haliburton County is still clear of the potentially toxic growth.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has confirmed small blue-green algae blooms on the eastern end of Ten Mile Bay in Lake of Bays and at Weismiller Bay on Lake Muskoka.
According to the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit no reports of blue-green algae in Haliburton County have been advised by the Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks so far this summer.
On a webpage posted last November the HKPR District Health Unit describes blue-green algae or cyanobacteria as being “primitive microscopic organisms that occur naturally in lakes bays ponds and inlets. Normally the algae are barely visible. In warm weather when conditions are right the algae can rapidly grow to form a large mass (or bloom).”
Though the blooms typically thrive in water that is shallow slow-moving and warm water they can also present in deeper cooler water.
“Dense blue-green algae blooms can make the water look like a bluish-green pea soup or a shiny paint slick” reads the health unit’s site. “Very dense blooms may form solid-looking clumps. Fresh blue-green algae blooms often smell like fresh cut grass while older blooms can stink like rotten garbage.”
Most algae blooms according to the site are short-lived and will break down within days or weeks.
A common cause of blue-green algae blooms is the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen available agricultural and stormwater runoff as well as leaching from septic systems.
Paul MacInnes chair of the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations said lakefront property owners can minimize the risk of a bloom on their lake by keeping septic systems operating properly making sure that at least 75 per cent of shoreline is planted with native deep-rooted trees and plants and that 75 per cent of the shoreline of an entire lake is planted in a natural way as well.
The health unit’s website notes that if you suspect a blue-green algae bloom you should:
- Assume toxins are present
- Avoid using, drinking, bathing or swimming in the water
- Restrict pets from getting into the water
Blooms can be reported to the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.
For further information about algae and algal blooms visit https://www.cohpoa.org/lake-health-3/algae-and-algal-blooms/.