Here is a picture of blue-green algae which washed up on a beach near Gimli on Lake Winnipeg, just a couple of days ago. Its unlikely that any humans will be swimming in the water this late in the season but if you look closely you’ll see a dog standing right at the edge of the water. Its so dangerous for dogs to go in water with blue-green algae because they lick their fur when they come out, thereby ingesting possible toxins in the algae. This year I’ve noticed many more warnings of the risks to dogs throughout North America and across the Atlantic in Britain as well. There have been several dog deaths reported in the States this year.
Just today I saw this news clip from New York State that is warning of the health hazards of exposure to blue-green algae. In this report they are saying that this year there have been 100 cases of human illness related to exposure to the algae. Dr. Jeffrey Reutter of Ohio State University is quoted as saying there will be human death soon if we don’t somehow slow the growth of this toxic algae. I don’t like to be a fear mongerer but I do think we need to pay serious attention to the increased warnings we’re seeing all over the world about the threats to human and animal health as well as to the aquatic life due to exposure to large amounts of blue-green algae.
In Lake Winnipeg, we are fortunate that so far the level of the toxin microcystin which is found in some blue-green algae, is not above the safe guidelines very often. When it is above the recommended safety guidelines the government posts notices on their website and on the beaches (if it is an area they routinely check).
At Lake of the Woods in the Kenora Ontario area, their public health officials have been issuing public notices advising people how to identify blue-green algae. They are offering to come out to check the water in any area where it is suspected to be the toxic algae. The point I’m really trying to make is that we should get moving much faster to decrease what is causing these algae blooms, the flow of phosphorus and nitrogen into our waterways. We do have some ideas about how to do this but it will require money and political will to get it done.