Alberta Health Services has officially lifted the cyanobacteria advisory over recreational water bodies which were noted to be contaminated over the summer.
For Wheatland County, this means that Eagle Lake is no longer under watch for cyanobacteria as winter begins to set in.
Dr. Kieran Steer, resident physician working with the medical officer of health within Alberta Health Services (AHS), said though not the only one to consider, ambient temperature is often a significant cause for cyanobacteria growth.
“There’s a variety of factors that can contribute to cyanobacterial blooms. One of the main ones is water temperature. Particularly warmer temperatures generally lead to cyanobacteria having optimal conditions to grow to the extent that they can start blooming,” he said.
“Seasonally, as water temperatures cool, typically around November, which is consistent with this year, it makes it so that it’s not ideal conditions for the cyanobacteria to grow so that they’re not able to grow in significant amounts, which then minimizes the health risks that were associated with cyanobacteria within the summer.”
Factors like fertilizer, sewage and other organic matter being present in the water body can also contribute to the establishment of cyanobacteria blooms.
While advisories are active, residents are recommended to avoid coming into contact with or consuming water from a contaminated body, as they will be at risk to adverse health effects.
“With regards to watersheds with cyanobacteria blooms, if people come into direct contact with these blooms, it can cause a range of health effects that mainly surrounding skin and skin irritation symptoms,” said Steer.
“This can include direct skin irritation, rash, red eyes, sore throat, it can also cause fever-like symptoms such as a runny nose.”
He added consuming contaminated water versus simply coming into contact with it could have its own host of symptoms, including headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains.
In some instances, particularly with larger exposures, there have been reports of more serious health concerns, particularly around a person’s liver.
Similarly, Steer also explained there have been reports of incidents in which pets and domestic animals that have died after coming into direct contact with water that contained significant amounts of cyanobacteria.
On an annual basis, AHS will do routine monitoring for signs of cyanobacteria growth. Often the priority water bodies are those which will be recreationally used.
“For other lakes, we investigate any complaints that come in where people are concerned that there might be cyanobacteria blooms on their lake,” said Steer.
“The biggest thing for people to do is they can check the health advisories prior to using recreational freshwater, particularly in the summer to see if there’s any advisories for that lake.”
He advises that if someone sees a bloom, the best thing they can do is to simply not come into contact with it, and if they do, to clean themselves thoroughly as soon as possible.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times