This map provided by Interior Health on Aug. 11, 2020 outlines the areas of Shuswap Lake impacted by what is described as a primarily non-harmful green algae. (Contributed)

Algae bloom in Shuswap Lake deemed large but low risk

Agencies will continue to monitor bloom that stretches from Tappen to Salmon Arm to Canoe

A large ‘primarily non-harmful’ algal bloom has filled most of Shuswap Lake’s Salmon Arm Bay, reports Interior Health.

It was first detected on July 22 and, currently, “on-site environmental testing indicates this bloom is primarily non-harmful green algae with very low numbers of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae and the risk to the public remains low,” stated Interior Health in an Aug. 11 news release.

At this time of year, algal blooms are known to occur in many of the lakes, ponds and wetlands in the Interior, the release noted.

Blue-green algae, however, if it becomes prominent, has the potential to be harmful.

“During warm summer months, it is common for some blooms to be blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which can quickly grow into large masses called cyanoblooms. Blue-green algae can produce a toxin, which may be harmful if it is swallowed or if it comes in contact with skin,” stated the release.

Cyanoblooms are usually blue-green in colour and can cover the surface or make normally clear water look like thick pea soup or paint.

Jennifer Jacobsen with Environmental Health at Interior Health said Aug. 11 that the bloom on Shuswap Lake has been moving around a bit and was not near the shoreline.

Read more: Shuswap Lake algae bloom not considered harmful

Read more: 2019 – Tappen area of Shuswap Lake shows high phosphorous and nitrogen levels

Rob Niewenhuizen, director of engineering and public works with the City of Salmon Arm, noted the bloom was more dense in the Tappen Bay area and less dense in Canoe.

Jacobsen said people can use the lake, but should be aware there may be blooms.

“They should not swim or recreate where the bloom is thick or active,” she pointed out.

She noted impacts from blue-green algae to skin are fairly low, but ingesting the water, particularly by children or pets, can be riskier.

Jacobsen emphasized that risk from the green algae in Shuswap Lake is considered low, and Interior Health and other agencies will continue to monitor public drinking water supplies and beaches.

If risks increase, the public will be informed.

The health authority, the provincial environment ministry and the First Nations Health Authority are working with the City of Salmon Arm, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Fraser Basin Council to monitor the large bloom.

More information on blue-green algae is available at HealthLinkBC.
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Interior Health has issued an update on a ‘mostly non-harmful green algae’ in the Salmon Arm Bay area of Shuswap Lake. The bloom was not readily visible from shore on a cloudy Aug. 11, 2020. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

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