N.S. government says blue-green algae toxins detected in Grand Lake
Eric and Ellen Levin have lived on the shore of Nova Scotia’s Grand Lake for 13 years.
The recent advisory warning against using water from the lake for any purpose, means they’ve been using bottled water for everything from making tea to washing dishes for the past five days.
The couple have been getting their bottled water and taking showers at the East Hants Aquatic Centre.
“It’s like camping out”, laughs Ellen.
“You don’t realize how much water you use, until you’re restricted,” says Eric.
While they are managing, they've been concerned about the long wait for information as to just what is causing the problem.
“This is the problem, the lack of information that’s getting to us,” says Eric.
“We were told to shut down, we did that straight away, and then we’re waiting to hear, we’re hearing nothing.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the province provided an update on its investigation.
“The National Research Council lab did confirm that there are the microorganisms, the toxins associated with blue-green algae that were collected on Friday,” said Julie Towers, deputy minister of the provincial Department of Environment and Climate Change.
“At least at this point in time, we do know that blue-green algae did occur, there was a bloom.”
Towers said staff tested the actual algae material found at the lake.
The Department also said in a news release that the samples showed “evidence of blue-green algae consistent with levels found to be dangerous to dogs.”
Last Thursday the province told residents to stop using water from Grand Lake for any activities - including drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, and swimming - for both people and pets.
The advisory was issued after a woman was sent to hospital and her two dogs died after coming into contact with the water at Grand Lake in the Oakfield, N.S. area.
But Towers stopped short of making a direct connection between those incidents and the blue-green algae bloom, saying the province was awaiting further test results looking for the presence of any chemicals in the lake. She also said the department is waiting for necropsy results on the dead dogs.
Towers said those results should be back soon.
“That will let us know what other requirements may or may not be needed, but knowing that there has been blue-green algae confirmed, that means people should be cautious,” Towers said.
Residents on municipal water in both Halifax and East Hants have been told their water supply is safe.
But those who draw water from the lake, or who have shallow wells within 60 metres of it, can get clean drinking water and use of shower facilities at the East Hants Aquatic Center.
According to the municipality’s Director of Infrastructure and Operations, more than 160 people have used that service so far.
“And right now, our plan looks very sustainable for at least the coming week,” says Jesse Hulsman.
On Monday, algae researcher Tri Nguyen-Quang of Dalhousie University’s Biofluids and Biosystems Modeling Lab told CTV News he took water samples from Grand Lake and nearby Fish Lake late Friday afternoon, and found “there was no presence of cyanotoxins in the water sample.”
Those toxins are normally created by the exponential cyanobacteria growth characteristic of an algae bloom.
But Tuesday, he says that only means the water was clear at that particular location at that particular moment on a very large lake.
“What would be the source of contamination for Grand Lake?” he asks. “We should take more samples, we should take more surveys, regularly.”
Towers asked residents who spot any kind of algae bloom in Grand Lake to notify the Department of Environment. She also said the department is putting together a plan to monitor the lake’s water quality moving forward.