Warnings posted at Marine Park on Thursday, Sept. 6 about blue-green algae in Salmon Arm Bay could remain for a while.
Although the algae that was seen mainly in the area in front of the Prestige Harbourfront Resort wasn’t extensive, it was enough to prompt the warning.
“It appears the algae was localized only within the moorage area of the boat launch area and within the storm service aeration pond and not out in the main portion of the lake,” stated David Karn, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in an email Friday afternoon.
He said the algae hasn’t been confirmed yet as the blue-green variety, but probably is.
“It is most likely cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), but definitive species identification is not yet complete.”
And it could be a couple of weeks before the water in that area of Shuswap Lake is deemed safe.
“The disappearance of a bloom that was visible the day prior is still of concern as the potential toxins may be released and can still cause illness once consumed. The toxin will in time dissipate and no longer be a health concern. This can take 2-3 weeks,” Karn says.
Asked about the algae’s toxicity, Karn replied: “IHA (Interior Health Authority) will be collecting samples. They will also use the toxin field test kit to see if toxins are potentially present. Further lab testing would follow a positive field test kit result.”
However, he did say that algae blooms can kill animals. They are “a natural phenomenon that occur in lakes during late summer and early autumn. Fifty to 75 per cent of blue green algae blooms contain toxins that can cause illness in people and unfortunately can cause death in animals.”
Related: Pollen or algae bloom?
The notification from the City of Salmon Arm which has been placed at spots around the boat launch and the aerated pond states: people are advised not to fish or consume from from Marine Park bay area of the lake; swallowing the water can cause stomach upsets or severe illness to humans and death to animals; contact with the water or the blue-green algae can also cause skin problems; the city advises you that adults, children and animals avoid contact with the algae and the water close to it; and the signage will remain in place while the conditions exist.
Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said the algae doesn’t seem to be a big problem.
“It doesn’t appear to be anything major, and it’s so far away from our water intake in Canoe, I don’t have concerns.”
Meanwhile, Interior Health directed questions about the algae to the HealthLinkBC website, File 47, on blue-green algae.
The website states blue-green algae can range in colour from olive-green to red. A bloom can look like thick green pea soup or it can be difficult to see.
Under ‘what are blue-green algae blooms,’ the website says blooms are much more likely to appear in areas “enriched with nutrients from human activities such as municipal, industrial or agricultural sources.”