Warmer Georgian Bay water temps pose risk of algae blooms, fecal coliform

·2 min read

The Township of Georgian Bay conducted coastal water testing on its shores this past summer.

Council voted to green light a proposal submitted by Mary Muter, chair of the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation and Pat Chow-Fraser, a professor of biology at McMaster University.

In a letter to council, chair foundation Mary Muter said Muskoka Watershed Council tests occasionally, “a couple of times per year at a few locations.”

However, rising water levels this year are presenting unique circumstances that could see the water exposed to nutrients and bacteria due to flooded septic tanks. Warmer water temperatures may also pose the risk of algae blooms and fecal coliform that could render the water unsafe.

The project, helmed by Chow-Fraser and McMaster students, will test 32 sites over the course of July and August.

Testing will take place 25-30 metres from the shoreline providing data on pathogens in the water as well as information to help map and assess wetland vegetation.

Mayor Koetsier said testing has been done previously — Chow-Fraser has conducted similar work in Georgian Bay waters for decades — but considers this project a particularly worthwhile endeavour.

“Unfortunately, on Georgian Bay where there is a lot of rock, if the water goes up and down, the wetland may disappear,” he said. The coastal water testing will provide “at the very least, a baseline” that Koetsier said can assist the township’s planning department.

With COVID-19 decreasing municipal budgets, councillors expressed concerns around affordability for the project estimated to cost $25,000. However, $10,000 will be provided by the Planning Council Initiatives with the remainder coming from the Working Capital Reserve.

Mayor Peter Koetsier noted, “finances are always a challenge” and that “allocation of the Township’s limited funds" is always top of mind, “this year even more so.” Still, he feels environmental stewardship remains an important priority. “This is something worth doing,” he added.

Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com