It is the responsibility of Alberta Health Services to protect health, and to ensure public is aware of potential risks to their health. This is why AHS issues blue-green algae advisories, and why these advisories remain in place when the risk is still potentially present. This will not be changing this season as stated by Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health Services.
However the good news for the residents and businesses in the Pigeon Lake region is, included in the announcement made by Dr. Predy stating, “The revised advisory template educates the public on the need to watch for visible blooms, and take a specific series of steps to protect themselves in areas when blooms are visible. Historically, we have placed less emphasis on the visibility of blooms as the measure of concern. This new messaging will better convey the importance of avoiding visible blooms, rather than whole lake avoidance.”
Rodger Cole, president of the Pigeon Lake Chamber of Commerce is pleased with the announcement. “Many of the businesses in the Pigeon Lake region are locally owned and operated and are pleased to hear that there is a change in how the advisories will be worded. There is a sense of optimism in knowing that potential visitors will have a better understanding of how possible blue green algae outbreaks may impact the lake. All of our business community continues to emphasize that the Pigeon Lake region has and will continue to be a place to ‘Live, Play and Prosper’ and the Pigeon Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce welcomes all visitors to region to explore our many attributes and enjoy the hospitality extended by our residents and business owners.”
The announcement from Alberta Health Services states, “If and when blue-green algae is identified in a recreational body of water, AHS will issue a blue-green algae advisory, for the impacted body of water. The changes were made simply to ensure that the human health risk related to blooms, and the steps Albertans should take to protect themselves from these risks, are explained clearly. Again, our focus remains on ensuring Albertans can continue to enjoy Alberta’s lakes, safely.”
Linda Zukiwski, a local resident, feels the algae risk was much less than it was perceived to be. “It feels like a cloud has lifted from over our area since AHS has modified their algae warnings. Local residents, and especially those who have lived in the area for generations, have always understood the relationship between the weather conditions and the lake conditions and taken the appropriate precautions. Over the past few years we have been put in the position of having to defend the community we call home. Now the public will be informed and they can enjoy the lake as much as we do.”
Blue-green algae occurs naturally in lakes and ponds. Algae blooms appear as a bluish-green scum, the consistency of pea soup, on the water surface and have a musty odour. Normally the algae occurs in
small concentrations, but multiply rapidly under the right conditions.
“Blue-green algae are found naturally in many lakes and ponds, but given the right conditions, they start to multiply and form blooms. Some of the conditions might be hot weather, a chemical imbalance, such as too much phosphorous or nitrogen. So many things contribute to make conditions favourable for blooms to form,” reported Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, Central Alberta Zone medical officer, Alberta Health Services.
Christine McFarland, another resident, shares her concerns about the negative perception of Pigeon Lake presented by the media in recent years. “Living and working in this area, I am very aware that public perception of the Pigeon Lake area has been negatively impacted for the past several years due to the manner in which the media has presented the area to their audiences. It is my hope that this mindset can be turned around as we remain poised and ready to roll out the welcome mat for visitors to enjoy and engage in all the benefits of this scenic community. There are activities galore for families to engage in. Here at Pigeon Lake we continue to celebrate a perfect balance of rural charm with urban amenities and invite our fellow Albertans to experience the warmth of the people in this area.”
Blue-green algae can produce a potent toxin with can present a health risk to humans and animals. People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), or who ingest water containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), may experience skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days. Children might be more at risk for getting sick from blue-green algae because they often spend more time in the water and may swallow contaminated water by accident.
Boiling the water does not remove or destroy the toxins produced by blue-green algae.
If you suspect a problem related to blue-green algae, or if you require further information on blue-green algae, please call Health Link at 811.