While a ‘cautionary advisory’ was issued regarding an algae bloom in Shuswap Lake, the bloom has apparently been elusive.
No new information has been provided during the long weekend, but a map was issued on June 29 from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD), the City of Salmon Arm and Interior Health.
Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said on June 30 that the “map is not showing where the bloom is, but where cautionary areas are.”
He said the city had been in constant communication with Interior Health and the CSRD, and the intention of the advisory was to make the public aware that if they observe algae in an area, to avoid contact with it and report it.
He said satellite imagery shows what could be a bloom in the middle of the lake, but it had not been verified. The amount of pollen in the lake added to the difficulty of determining what’s there, he noted.
“Right now, we haven’t confirmed the bloom but are watching for it. We do have some satellite imagery.”
The Canada Day weekend has also affected verification. Niewenhuizen said Interior Health takes samples but they can’t be tested until the weekend is over as none of the labs are open.
Meanwhile, the city has received calls from concerned citizens about the city’s water supply. He said city water is taken in via a deep inlet pipe in the lake, while algae is more surface level. He also said the city continually tests the city’s water supply.
“We’ve done toxicity tests – it’s clear and clean.”
City staff walked parts of the shoreline including Canoe Beach’s dog park, with no algae seen. The water at Canoe Beach was clear on July 2 with the bottom easily visible.
The city will be doing shoreline sampling on Monday and Tuesday, July 4 and 5, if they see anything. Niewenhuizen said Interior Health and the provincial Ministry of Environment are responsible for lake sampling.
Jim Cooperman, longtime president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society, said for more than 20 years SEAS has been sounding the alarm about the amount of agricultural pollution going into Shuswap Lake, as well as sewage issues.
He expressed frustration and concern that testing wasn’t being done right away as he said blue-green algae, more dangerous than green algae, might be present.
“It’s unfortunate we don’t have this kind of technology here. How high tech is it?”
Cooperman noted that algae blooms are not natural to Shuswap Lake, with the first one recorded in 2008.
“The lake is near and dear to everyone. It’s the heart of the Shuswap. We’re just watching it get worse and worse. This is now major algae bloom number 4 and the second in two years.”
For more information about algae and to submit a report of an algal bloom to the province, visit the B.C. government’s Algae Watch website.
For more information on cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, see this HealthLink file from Interior Health.
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