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Blue-green algae monitoring program pitched for Charlie Lake

The Charlie Lake Conservation Society has finished a survey of blue-green algae in Charlie Lake and is recommending an active monitoring program be considered to keep a close watch on the toxins that blooms are releasing into its waters.
charlie-lake-sampling
Sampling for blue-green algae in Charlie Lake last summer.

The Charlie Lake Conservation Society has finished a survey of blue-green algae in Charlie Lake and is recommending an active monitoring program be considered to keep a close watch on the toxins that blooms are releasing into its waters.

Society co-presidents Bruce Kosugi and Glynnis Maundrell presented survey findings to the Peace River Regional District on March 10, noting the noxious algae blooms remain a public health concern due to their toxicity.

“We know that the regional district and the staff have received complaints and health and safety concerns about the algae blooms in Charlie Lake,” said Kosugi. “And we also know that because of climate change we can anticipate that there could be impacts on our lake, as well as lakes across the whole world.”

There are four major types of algae in Charlie Lake that bloom at different times of the season, but it's the blue-green blooms, also known as cyanobacteria, that residents complain about the most.

The bacteria consumes oxygen as it blooms, starving out fish, and releases toxins as it dies. Those toxins can irritate skin, upset stomachs, and do serious damage to nervous and respiratory systems in both people and their pets.

Algae sampling took place at four sites across the span of the lake last summer, and the society is seeking PRRD sponsorship for additional testing.


charlie-lake-sampling-map
A map of blue-green algae sampling sites across Charlie Lake. (Charlie Lake Conservation Society)

According to the society's testing last year, no blooms were found on the lake in June, however, there were low levels of cyanobacteria. By early August, blooms had formed at the south end of the Lake, with significantly higher levels of cyanobacteria present.

No blooms were found in late August while cyanobacteria levels dropped, which Kosugi says can be attributed to cooler temperatures. Blooms were found at Beatton Park in September, with cyanobacteria levels higher than August.

“The blooms are localized and appear and disappear throughout the season," Kosugi said. "Cyanobacteria can be present at any time during that growing season."

Kogusi says last year's survey represents a snapshot in time, and that different results could be found based on varying weather patterns and water conditions. A five-year aquatic plant study being conducted by the society is also entering its fourth year. 

The society says people should avoid contact and drinking untreated water where blooms exist. It also says lake residents can help by reducing runoff into the lake by maintaining natural shoreline vegetation, cutting the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and by avoiding dumping grass clippings and leaves.

"Taking up some of the nutrients that blue-green algae would utilize is a big factor," Kosugi said.


Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca