Upper Canada migratory bird sanctuary beach could have blue-green algae

[Canada] The Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary beach is being considered for closure due to high quantities of blue-green algae.

This as most beaches in our area tested by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit remain open, except for Camp Kagama in South Stormont and Island Park in Alexandria. Due to high bacteria levels that can be hazardous to health, these beaches are currently closed.

Andy Bramburger, a research scientist for the St. Lawrence River Institute was given a sample from the beach by the EOHU Wednesday and found it to have high levels of what is commonly called blue-green algae. Whether the levels of algae are high enough to be enough of a concern to close the beach is a call made by the EOHU said Bramburger.

“It’s a rather primitive form of algae,” said Bramburger. “Some of the oldest fossils found are from this type of algae. But in really high numbers, they are capable of producing toxins that can affect human health as well as plants and animals.

“But it is in really high abundance.”

The water sample given to Bramburger to test was blue-green in colour, which he said was a tell-tale sign when looking for water issues.

Bramburger said the algae floats to the top of the water and looks very much like a skim of green paint covering the surface.

“It’s not a problem in and of itself,” said Bramburger. – It’s something that is always present in the water, but when it gets to high densities like this (is when it gets dangerous).”

Bramburger said the algae is photosynthetic and needs light to survive.

“If they are further down in the water, they are going to start being shaded out by their competitors and they will start dying,” said Bramburger. “When they start dying, they decompose and they start releasing the toxins in the water.”

Bramburger said the algae has a strong smell as well. Bramburger said he wasn’t sure if the area the sample was taken from still has a look of green paint on the surface because of changing weather.

“By the time the sample gets from the beach to the lab and if there has been a rain event or a wind event, that algae could be washed out downstream and it’s gone,” he said. Bramburger said keeping on top of it and monitoring the situation was very important.

Branburger said the algae, like anything else, needs fertilizer. It need phosphorus and nitrogen.

“Anytime you have those nutrients in the water you will have more algae,” he said. “Why it flips to blue-green algae instead of green algae, which is harmless, we don’t really understand yet. There are a lot of things that affect it.”

“It’s not something you want to swim in,” he said. At low levels, the algae can cause slight skin discomfort to gastrointestinal discomfort and at the higher levels can become a neurotoxin.

“If people see that sort of green paint looking water on the surface, it’s a good idea to stay away and let wither the Health Unit of the River Institute know,” he said.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the EOHU said they just received the report Wednesday and are working with the Ministry of the Environment to decide if the beach should be officially closed or not.


Photo caption: Researcher Scientist Andy Bramburger shows off a water sample containing blue-green algae taken from the Upper Canada Beach at the Bird Sanctuary between Long Sault and Morrisburg on July 3, 2014. At higher levels the algae can be neurotoxic and at lower levels it causes no more that a slight skin discomfort. LOIS ANN BAKER/CORNWALL STANDARD-FREEHOLDER/QMI AGENCY

Lois Ann Baker, Standard-freeholder

View original article at: Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary beach could have blue-green algae

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