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Toxic algae levels appearing in Sask. lakes, U of R researchers say
REGINA -- Climate change is one factor causing toxic levels of algae to appear in some Saskatchewan lakes according to a team of researchers from the University of Regina.
The algae, although not deadly, can be harmful to both humans and pets.
“There’s an increase in algae, the little round green things that produce toxins and this is directly following the warming of the water,” said Peter Leavitt, the Canada Research Chair with the U of R’s biology department.
Leavitt and other researchers from the university have been monitoring the water since 1994 as part of this study.
It recently found a changing climate is contributing to an increase to toxin levels in prairie lakes.
“There were actually two lakes that had a moderate to high risk of acute health effects,” Leavitt explained. “So these toxins are actually worse than cyanide if you can get it into your body. Fortunately, it doesn’t tend to get into your body but it does make you really sick.”
The affected lakes include Pasqua Lake and Crooked Lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley, bordering Pasqua and Cowessess First Nations.
Buffalo Pound, the source of drinking water for both Regina and Moose Jaw, was also found to have high levels of toxins.
“The toxin levels are higher in that lake than they are in many of the others in Saskatchewan, but they’re not high constantly and the good news is water treatment facilities normally would remove the toxins entirely,” Leavitt said.
The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency says it is aware of the study but has not conducted a detailed review. It says some water bodies experience more algae blooms than others and the Government of Saskatchewan monitors for any blooms on public beaches.
The WSA also issues an annual public notification about blue-green algae.
Leavitt says there are ways to help reduce algae growth.
“Cottaging around the lake, making sure your septic system is working and you’re not leaking nutrients into the lake, making sure you don’t fertilize the lawn down to the water,” Leavitt said. “Anything that reduces the nutrient input will reduce the ability of these toxic algae to get a foothold and therefore will reduce the level of global warming.”
Leavitt adds although the toxins are not deadly for humans, the lasting impacts it could cause are unknown and urges residents to be vigilant when boating or swimming.