Alberta Health Services (AHS) has issued a blue-green algae bloom advisory for Freeman Lake as of Friday. Advisories have also been issued for other locations relatively close to Swan Hills in recent weeks, including Lesser Slave Lake on Aug. 25 and Thunder Lake on Jul. 27.
What we commonly refer to as blue-green algae isn’t actually algae, but types of bacteria called cyanobacteria that live in water and can use sunlight to manufacture their own food. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in our freshwater lakes. They thrive in warm, nutrient-rich environments and can multiply quickly, creating blooms that spread across the surface of the water body. These blooms often become visible under calm weather conditions, appearing like layers of scum, grass clippings, balls of fuzz, or “globs” on the water’s surface. Cyanobacteria can be coloured blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, and/or pinkish-red, often accompanied by a musty or grassy odour.
Some of the types of cyanobacteria that form blooms produce toxins, which may be released into the water when the bloom dies and decays. Decaying blooms may look discoloured and smell like ammonia.
Visitors to Freeman Lake are advised to:
· Avoid any contact with cyanobacteria blooms.
· Do not enter the water if any cyanobacteria blooms are visible.
· Do not feed any fish (whole or trimmings) from the affected lake to your pets.
· Consider reducing or halting human consumption of whole fish or trimmings from this lake, as toxins may accumulate in the liver. Fish fillets from this lake may be consumed safely.
Visitors can still use areas of the lake without a visible cyanobacteria bloom for recreation, even with this advisory in place.
Individuals who have come into contact with, or have ingested water containing cyanobacteria may experience; skin irritation; rash; sore throat; sore reddened eyes; swollen lips; fever; nausea; and/or diarrhea. These symptoms usually appear within 1 to 3 hours from the time of contact and resolve in one to two days. While symptoms are often more pronounced in children, all humans who come into contact with cyanobacteria are at risk.
Do not drink or cook with untreated water from any lake, including lakes under a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) advisory. Boiling this water will not remove toxins from cyanobacteria. Drinking water from alternate sources should be provided for pets and/or livestock until the advisory has been lifted.
As cyanobacteria blooms can move around on the lake due to wind and weather conditions, this advisory will remain in effect until further notice.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette