Responses To Cortes Island’s Algae Bloom Problem

By Roy L Hales

The global phenomenon of algae blooms has reached British Columbia. The BC Northern Health issued an advisory for Prince George area last summer. Severe outbreaks have been reported at St. Mary and Cusheon Lakes on Saltspring Island, and Village Bay Lake on Quadra Island. The Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) recently published a monitoring report. I recently interviewed the author, Rex Weyler, about responses to Cortes Island’s algae bloom problem.

“Hague and Gunflint Lakes are typical lakes and the challenges we are having there are also typical when you have a human community that lives around a body of fresh water … The problem is human septic and livestock concentrating nutrients and then passing that into the water table, which then drains into the lake. Those nutrients are feeding the algae booms,” says Weyler.

He is one of the two scientists who started monitoring the problem on Cortes Island during the spring of 2014. There was an “annoying smell,” caused by decomposing algae, for about two weeks. Swimmers reported an unusually high number of irritations and clouds of algae through the summer. Lakeside residents reported fish die-off along the northeast and northwest shorelines of Hague Lake.

“The last couple of years the algae blooms have been less, and then this year it is a little more intense.”

The lake water is still safe to swim in and, using a filtration system, to drink.

Reducing The Nutrient Flow

“The simple solution is that we have to reduce the nutrient flow from the human community into the water table and there are ways to do that. Each household in the watershed has to … make sure its’ septic field is working properly and has a good drainage…”

” .. You can replant the lake front with native plants such as cat tails [which are] very good at taking out nutrients … Winnipeg had a serious algae problem, due to the nutrient flow into the lake. They had a massive campaign to plant cat tails around the lake and have had great success.”

“If we do nothing … this lake will turn into an over-productive, swamp-like, smelly wetlands.”

To learn more:

The podcast above is half of the program broadcast on Cortes Community Radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM, on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. You can access the other half here.

Top photo credit: The northern shore of Gunflint Lake, seen from a canoe – Roy L Hales photo

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