FedNor funds $1 million to NOSM to help detect blue-green algae

[Canada] As the climate continues to change, scientists at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) say they are noticing an increase of blue-green algae in our lakes and waterways.

“Blue-green algae is actually more like a bacteria than a plant and it makes a lot of toxins in our environment,” NOSM professor Greg Ross said, “so it’s harmful to people’s health.”

On Nov. 24, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, Patty Hajdu announced the Federal government will be giving $1 million of FedNor funding to NOSM to develop an innovative camera technology that’s able to quickly and accurately identify the toxic blue-green algae.

“NOSM and [Discover Air Fire Services] have been working together for a number of years, with FedNor,” Minister Hajdu said “[and] FedNor is all about, identifying opportunities that will help move forward not just the research of our region but also the opportunity for economic development.”

A bloom of blue-green algae found in contaminated water (University of Alberta)

Currently, detection efforts of the blue-green algae is done on ground, with scientists collecting samples from beaches, lakes and waterways.

However, Minister Hajdu said with NOSM’s new idea to mount cameras on an aircraft, the process for detecting the toxin will become much more rapid, which in turn will help scientists find a solution that much faster.

From rashes to possible lung problems, Ross said people who drink the contaminated water can potentially develop chronic long term illnesses.

He said, while Public Health is currently doing a great job in “monitoring the environment and letting them know of the contaminated areas,” the $1 million funding from FedNor will help reduce any delays within the process.

“By the time you collect a ground sample, send it away for analysis and start to close beaches, there can be very very long term delays,” Ross said, “[but] the technology we are developing should enable real time reporting.”

Which means, within 24 hours scientists would not only be able to detect, but also let people know if there’s a contamination on the waterway where they reside.


Photo: Minister of Employment, Workforce Developement and Labour, Patty Hajdu gave $1 million of FedNor funding to NOSM for a new camera technology that will help detect toxic blue-green algae in our local lakes and waterways. (Christina Jung / CBC)

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