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Summer village on Lac St. Anne plots attack plan on pervasive blue-green algae

Click to play video: 'Alberta village of Yellowstone taking algae action amid toxic blooms on  Lac St. Anne'
Alberta village of Yellowstone taking algae action amid toxic blooms on Lac St. Anne
The Summer Village of Yellowstone is holding a special event to discuss how to prevent algae blooms on Lac St. Anne and is testing a new technology to get rid of it. But as Mason DePatie reports, provincial policy prevents it from being used in the lake. – Jul 21, 2023

A summer village on Lac St. Anne, 50 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, is looking for a way it can attack the lake’s blue-green algae problem.

Kim Hanlan, chief administrative officer of the summer village of Yellowstone, said the blue-green algae is affecting people’s enjoyment of the lake.

“The smell was just like sewer, it was a terrible smell. The look was very sludgy … it just coated the lake,” said Hanlan.

“It’s something that’s progressively getting worse and the algae doesn’t go away through the winter either.”

Yellowstone is hosting a meeting Saturday with area politicians, nearby towns and environmental groups to discuss what can be done to address the problem.

Blue-green algae – which isn’t really algae, it’s bacteria – can form when there’s an imbalance of nutrients in a lake.

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Click to play video: 'Check for algae advisories before heading to Alberta lakes'
Check for algae advisories before heading to Alberta lakes

That happens commonly in Alberta because the province’s soil is rich in phosphorus, but when the nutrient enters the watershed, it can run off into the lake, making the bloom worse.

Hanlan said the first aim of the meeting will be to educate residents on lifestyle changes that can help prevent the blooms from occurring.

“Having a nice green lush lawn and a perfectly pristine lake next to each other doesn’t really work, so there’s some adjustments to what we normalize in our lifestyle,” said Hanlan.

The other half of the meeting will be dedicated to exploring methods of treating blue-green algae.

“We’re hoping to introduce new science to allow … innovation and help ease some of the damage that has happened,” said Hanlan.

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Click to play video: 'Climate change making blue-green algae worse in Alberta'
Climate change making blue-green algae worse in Alberta

E8 Innovations has been successful in using nanobubble ozone technology to treat private lakes in Alberta, but not public lakes as it isn’t permitted under the province’s environmental regulations, Hanlan said.

Jay White, senior biologist at Aquality Environmental Consulting, helps deal with algae and bacteria in Alberta lakes using peroxide.

White said peroxide has been effective at killing the bacteria and leaves the “good algae” alone, he said, as the peroxide breaks down into oxygen in the water.

“I imagine (nanobubble ozone technology) may be effective in dealing with the problem,” White said.

However, White said it’s important to not just address symptoms.

“I can get rid of a harmful algal bloom in an hour for you, that’s not a problem, but you’re still going to have that problem next year and the year after and maybe even in six weeks,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Water warning after pet dies from suspected blue-green algae exposure in Alberta'
Water warning after pet dies from suspected blue-green algae exposure in Alberta

White said there are many “lake management” tools available to help prevent the issue, such as keeping nearby wetlands and shorelines healthy and intact and controlling sediment runoff from construction zones.

Alberta had a very warm spring followed by hot, dry and wind-free conditions, which made for a very bacteria-friendly environment this year. This trend will likely continue as lakes warm due to climate change, White said.

“We’re seeing ice coming off of some of our lakes weeks earlier than what they normally would have done 10, 20, 30 years ago,” he said.

An emailed statement from Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA) said lake health is the responsibility of all Albertans.

“Generally speaking, water quality in Alberta lakes is largely a reflection of the watershed that surrounds it,” AEPA said.

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“Years of reduced rainfall, coupled with excess nutrients, has resulted in excess aquatic vegetation growth, extensive blue-green algae blooms or other water quality issues at many lakes in our province.”

AEPA said work is underway to implement recommendations that came from the Sturgeon River Watershed Alliance watershed management plan.

There are more than 30 lakes in Alberta dealing with blue-green algae as of Friday, according to advisories posted on the Alberta Health Services website.

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