Officials have detected the presence of toxins associated with blue-green algae at a Nova Scotia lake, after a contamination caused two dogs to die and sent a woman hospital last week.
An emergency alert was sent out last Thursday advising people to immediately stop using water from the Shubenacadie Grand Lake for drinking, bathing, swimming and boating.
Staff with the Department of Environment and Climate Change took samples from the lake last week. On Tuesday, deputy minister Julie Towers told reporters that not all of the test results are back, but the National Research Council has detected blue-green algae toxins in the lake.
“At this point in time, we still want people to be cautious because of that and not use the water,” she said.
Department staff continue to test for pesticides and other chemicals and are waiting on results. Towers said they are also looking for potential sources of nutrients that enable the algae to grow.
Samples were also taken from Fish Lake, which is connected by a culvert, but so far Towers said “nothing picked up.”
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, is a natural freshwater algae. During the summer, it grows rapidly and extensively, also known as a bloom.
Towers said it’s possible the lake, a popular spot for swimming and boating, could remain closed into the summer as the weather heats up.
“At least until we get more information, no contact is ideal,” she said. “I wouldn’t want people to take chances until we have more information. That’s the important part.”
People who swim in water contaminated by blue-green algae can experience itchy and irritated skin and eyes, hay fever-like allergy symptoms, hives, rashes and blisters. Those who drink it can get headaches, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, muscle, joint pain, and liver damage.
It’s unclear how many people draw their drinking water from the lake, but the Municipality of East Hants has previously said it could be in the hundreds.
The municipality is providing drinking water to affected people. They can pick up water at the East Hants Aquatic Centre from 8 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. until the advisory is lifted. People are asked to bring their own containers, and bottled water is also available.
Shower facilities are also available on Tuesday at the aquatic centre from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Starting Wednesday, anyone who needs a shower can come in during the centre’s hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
All COVID-19 protocols will need to be followed, the municipality said in a release.