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Blue-green algae advisory issued for Thunder Lake

Attention anyone going to Thunder Lake – the water contains toxic blue-green algae that pose a health risk. Health experts have issued the following precautions: • Do not drink water from the lake. Boiling contaminated water does not remove toxins.
Blue-green alert: Toxic algae is plaguing Thunder Lake, pictured above.
Blue-green alert: Toxic algae is plaguing Thunder Lake, pictured above.

Attention anyone going to Thunder Lake – the water contains toxic blue-green algae that pose a health risk.

Health experts have issued the following precautions:

• Do not drink water from the lake. Boiling contaminated water does not remove toxins. Provide alternative drinking water for pets and livestock;

• Do not swim or wade in the lake. The same goes for pets;

• Avoid contact with blue-green algae along the shoreline;

• People may wish to limit consumption of fish from lake.

Speaking last Thursday, Alberta Health Services’ senior medical officer Dr. Gerry Predy said blue-green algae were microscopic organisms than tended to proliferate in water that gets hot and receives a lot of sunlight.

When it is calm, algae often forms on water surfaces, looking like blue-green or greenish-brown scum.

“It is not an unusual occurrence,” said Predy, although he could not remember Thunder Lake having a history of blue-green algae.

Predy said those who come into contact with water containing toxic blue-green algae may experience a non-specific symptom such as a skin rash.

“Often it is hard to judge what caused it,” he added. “Generally the symptoms are relatively mild.”

Other ailments could include sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days.

With children problems are more pronounced because they tend to spend longer in the lake and are more likely to ingest contaminated water.

In a press release last week, AHS said people who consumed contaminated water as a primary source for drinking water could develop more serious illnesses, such as liver damage, over time.

It said the advisory would remain in effect until further notice because of the uncertain life of the toxin.

“Although weather and wind conditions can cause algae blooms to move from one location in the lake to another, the toxin can stay in the water even after algae have moved or disappeared,” the release stated.

Predy said a major factor to controlling algae was limiting the input of nutrients into the water, including wastewater effluent and agriculture runoff. People should also ensure their private sewage systems are properly maintained.

If anyone suspects a problem related to blue-green algae, or requires further information, they should call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).

Thunder Lake is about 20 kilometres west of Barrhead and 130 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.