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N.S. warns residents to keep eyes out for blue-green algae as weather gets warmer

A medium-density bloom of blue-green algae species in Nova Scotia, near the shoreline of a lake. (Source: Department of Environment and Climate Change) A medium-density bloom of blue-green algae species in Nova Scotia, near the shoreline of a lake. (Source: Department of Environment and Climate Change)
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As the weather in Nova Scotia continues to get warmer, the province is reminding residents to keep their eyes out for blue-green algae.

“We want everyone to safely enjoy our lakes, rivers, ponds and streams this summer. Knowing what to look for allows people to be alert so they can make informed decisions to keep themselves, their families and their pets safe,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman.

“One of the impacts of climate change is more blue-green algae.”

Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae is naturally occurring, being found in freshwater such as lakes and rivers. The plant-like substance grows more often in warmer weather.

The province describes the algae as often looking like fine glass clippings in the water, spilled paint, pea soup, or like a thick scum on the surface of the water. The mats of the algae can often appear as clumps of vegetation, appearing as black, brown, or dark green in the water. The mats can also detach, having a foul odour which may attract dogs.

The province will be trying a new pilot project this year using QR codes at 25 separate locations in provincial parks which will give people recent information of the area.

Side effects of swimming in or accidentally inhaling or swallowing water contaminated with the algae can include:

  •  itchy, irritated eyes and skin
  •  headaches
  •  fever
  •  diarrhea
  •  abdominal pain
  •  nausea
  •  vomiting

Eating the algae can also be fatal for pets.

The province lists a number of ways to reduce risk, including:

  •  scanning the water/shoreline for blue-green algae before swimming in freshwater
  •  avoiding contact with blooms of algae
  •  not drinking freshwater when swimming in lakes
  •  calling a veterinarian is a pet comes into contact

The province also says to report sightings of the algae to 1-877-936-8476. 

For more Nova Scotia news, visit our dedicated provincial page.

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