An increasing concern in cottage country is blue-green algae, a plant-like organism that, contrary to the name, comes in a variety of colours. Whether it is blue, green, or red, they can have toxins that are harmful to humans and wildlife. It is naturally occurring in bodies of water such as ponds and rivers. The algae may not be visible when it’s in the water, but it forms into clumps called blooms given the right conditions. These conditions are present in the late months of summer and the early months of fall. If the water is warm and slow moving, algae can grow at a rapid rate.
When you're searching waterfront properties it's always a good idea to check out the lake health and see if there's any history of issues. If there is a consistant problem it has the potential to affect re-sale values in certin areas so check with your Realtor.
What should you look for?
· Paint or soup-like substance on water surface and shorelines
· Slimy green, blue, brown, or red mats or clumps
· Green, blue, brown, or red foam
· Itchy children and/or pets after swimming
What symptoms show when algae is consumed?
· Irritation of eyes and skin
· Abdominal pain
What precautions should you take?
· Avoid using products that contain phosphorus and/or nitrogen
· Minimalize fertilizer use
· Maintain septic systems
· Pick up pet waste
· Avoid contact with water that you suspect is contaminated
· Teach your children about the dangers of blue-green algae
· Contact the Spills Action Centre if you suspect a blue-green algae bloom: 1-800-268-6060 or 1-855-889-5775 (TTY)
Why should you stay aware?
· Water that has blue-green algae cannot be treated for human, pet, or livestock consumption
· Toxins caused by algae can lead to irritation, liver damage, and nervous system damage
· Algal blooms are increasing on Ontario
· Blooms can negatively impact property value
For more information on blue-green algae blooms visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/blue-green-algae
or contact your local Health Unit