Advisory issued for blue-green algae in lakes, reservoirs

The Water Security Agency and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health are advising the public to avoid swimming in or drinking water where blue-green algae blooms are occurring. (Shown above is the algae growth on the slow-moving Souris River, looking from River Park.)

Lakes across the province are at risk of developing algae blooms. At this time, Saskatchewan has not required any lake closures or advisories due to blue-green algae blooms; however, the public is reminded to be aware of what blooms look like and the risk of contact.

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Algae blooms, or heavy concentrations of blue-green algae, commonly occur during calm, hot weather in areas of lakes and reservoirs with shallow, slow moving or still water that has sufficient nutrients. Algae blooms often give the water a shimmering, foamy pea soup appearance.

They are usually blue-green, bright blue, grey or tan in colour. The recent warm temperatures in the province may result in the quick formation of algal blooms. The algae blooms typically last up to three weeks and can be pushed around the lake or reservoir by the wind.

Swimming in or drinking this algae-bloom affected water can cause red skin, sore throat, cramps or diarrhea. In addition, caution should be taken when considering the consumption of fish or shellfish caught in areas of a water body where a bloom exists.

Toxins from cyanobacteria have been shown to accumulate in the liver of exposed fish. Small amounts have also been shown to accumulate in kidneys, blood, gill, bile, intestines and brain. It is recommended that people limit their consumption of fish organs, including the skin.

Studies in Alberta indicate that toxins from cyanobacteria are unlikely to accumulate in the flesh of fish at levels high enough to be hazardous to humans. Correctly gutted or filleted fish represent minimal to no health hazard to human consumption.

Pet owners and livestock producers are also advised to keep their animals away from algae-bloom affected water. Pets (especially dogs) are particularly vulnerable to cyanobacteria.

The Government of Saskatchewan’s Healthy Beaches program monitors water quality at recreational beaches. Test results are posted weekly from July to early September on saskatchewan.ca/healthy-beaches.

Please note that beach advisories and closures can happen at any time. The public should always follow the notifications posted at the beach.

For additional information on blue-green algae, visit the SaskH20 website: http://www.saskh20.ca/pdf/epb380blue-greenalgaeqa.pdf.

If you have any of these health symptoms, please call Healthline 811 or contact your health care provider.