Experts warn northern waterways still having tough time grappling with blue-green algae
SUDBURY -- It's a summer scourge, each and every year, having to beware of the blue-green algae blooms.
They're no stranger to Northern Ontario in recent years, and at least one new study shows it's not getting any better. Greater Sudbury recently commissioned a study on the phosphorous levels of Nepawhin Lake and they were very high.
The alarming part of the findings is that high phosphorous levels can lead to future blue-green algae blooms and, as a result, beach closures.
"This lake is taking off in terms of rising nutrient levels in the lake and the threat of algae," said John Gunn of Laurentian University's Living with Lakes Centre.
Gunn said the nutrient levels could be anything and everything from storm input and sewer drainage, nearby properties using fertilizer, to road salt and climate change.
No quick fix
The city has reduced its reliance on road salt in recent years, but experts say there is no quick fix. Action is needed now in hopes of preventing the situation from getting any worse.
"People are complaining, why are the rocks slippery or why is the lake turning green?" said Gunn. "These are big worries to the people who own these homes, because property values plunge when the lake turns green. My bigger worry is the kids who are using the beaches -- the health unit will have to shut them down.
He said Ramsey and Nepawhin in particular are at an extreme tipping point, with the algae problem and the beach closures only going to get worse with climate change.
Greg Ross is a researcher at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and Health Sciences North. He's been looking at how to expand the detection system for blue-green algae.
He's been monitoring the situation by air with his students in affiliation with MAG Aerospace.
Certain hot spots
"We've known for a lot of years what the triggers are for blue-green algae in our waterways - there's a couple of different things that happen, such as pollutants get into the water which are nutrients for blue-green algae and causes blooms, and then then other thing that we're suspecting is increase in temperatures," said Ross.
Ross said the issue of blue-green algae has been a constant issue and he knows there are certain hot spots where they are bound to find it every year.
Nepawhin Lake is now on his radar.
"The problem is going to be getting worse -- we know that from a whole bunch of different indicators -- and it's also a very long-term problem," he said. "So even if we stopped putting phosphorous into the water immediately, we might see a slow improvement to the situation, but not an overnight eradication of the problem."
Parents CTV News spoke with at Nepawhin Beach on Wednesday said the water quality is a constant concern for them.
"We're always disappointed if we have to leave due to blue-green algae, and I just think there could be different ways to address concerns like salting the roads in the winter," said mom Rhonda Kajner.
"We're always worried, we look it up and we call the city to make sure because we have kids and this is the only thing they're doing in the summer," said Lena Alagha.
The city is looking at several recommendations that were made in the report, including increased monitoring of storm input and sewer drainage.