Water Quality Issues

Conference puts lake under microscope

Posted Nov. 22, 2013
By GORD YOUNG, The Nugget
Friday, November 22, 2013 4:19:32 EST PM

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Photo at Left - Greg Ross, associate dean of research at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, speaks Friday during the Lake Nipissing Research Conference at Nipissing University.

Aircraft equipped with thermal imaging cameras could be used to better identify and track blooms of blue-green algae, a research conference focusing on Lake Nipissing heard Friday.

Greg Ross, associate dean of research at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, told the conference that the work of public health agencies to identify and alert the public of toxic blue-green algae is “almost irrelevant” because blooms can be moved around by wind and waves and may have changed locations by the time actions such as beach closures have been taken due to the time it takes to collect samples and have them tested. And he described those actions as “borderline ineffective” because the blooms can move around very quickly.

Ross said a possible solution is the use of thermal cameras that can image plant chlorophyll. He said algae researchers with the school of medicine in Sudbury are already using the technology – a helicopter equipped with the same thermal imaging cameras used by the Ministry of Natural Resources to help pinpoint wildfires.

Ross was among about dozen speakers who presented during the day-long Lake Nipissing Research Conference hosted by Nipissing University. The event is an offshoot of the Lake Nipissing Summit, which has been held each spring for the past three years, and is focused mainly on the science of the lake. “Our goal is to improve our abilities as researchers to share and conduct research on Lake Nipissing and the larger watershed,” April James, a researcher at Nipissing who help organize the event, said in a release.

Other presentations included seasonal thermal patterns of Callander Bay; an isotopic and hydrologic analysis of the Sturgeon River watershed; mapping water movement in the Lake Nipissing watershed and understanding sources of stream flow in the Wasi watershed using water isotopes. Some other presentations also focused on blue-green algae – a phenomenon that's been an increasing concern in North Bay, Sudbury and other areas of the province in recent years.

Sue Miller, manager of source water protection at the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority, provided an overview of phosphorus in Wasi River and Callander Bay area, where blue-green algae has been a recurring issue. Miller said the conservation authority, in collaboration with Nipissing and Environment Canada, is continuing to study the possible sources nutrient loading that may be contributing to blue-green algae in the Callander Bay area. She an existing monitoring station near the mouth of the Wasi River will be equipped with enhanced sensoring to provide more detailed data.

She said a paleolimnological study of Callander Bay, which analyzed sediment dating back more than 100 years, found increased phosphorus levels after 1950. Miller said reasons could include the usage of chemical fertilizers at that time, as well as lower water levels and less of an exchange with the main part of the lake due to the construction of the Portage Dam on the French River.

The conference heard that possible solutions to the problem of blue-green algae include reducing phosphorous loading, methods of stirring of the water to prevent blooms from forming as well as trapping and removing blooms. Blue-green algae blooms are commonly found in freshwater bodies, usually in late summer or early fall, and are dependent on specific environmental conditions, such as calm water conditions, high temperatures and elevated phosphorous levels.
When blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is present in lakes, it can cause skin irritation, sore throats and eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and diarrhea. At high enough levels, the toxins that are produced by the algae may cause liver and nervous system damage.

Blue-green Algae Reports - 2011

At the UFRCA Annual General Meeting on July 31, 2011, a cottager asked if there had been any reports of Blue-green algae in the area. We reported that we had heard of some algal blooms in the Sudbury area but no others to that date. Since then, there have been algal blooms in West Bay and Callander Bay of Lake Nipissing. On the Labour Day weekend, beaches were closed to swimming in Callander Bay. Also, Trout Lake, which is on the east side of North Bay, has experienced an algal bloom.

Officials Not Worried By Report Of Blue-green Algae On Trout Lake

 By PJ WILSON The Nugget
September 21, 2011
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A report of a blue-green algae bloom on Dugas Bay in Trout Lake is no reason for concern, says to the city's director of engineering.
In fact, Dave Euler, who draws his drinking water directly from the lake, said he had a nice, large glass of water Wednesday morning before going to work.
A resident in the area saw and took a sample of the bloom Monday, Euler said. It was submitted to the local Ministry of Environment office, which confirmed it was blue-green algae. But when officers went to the site themselves later that same day, none was detected.
"It isn't unusual for it to dissipate," Euler said, noting the bloom was small and the level of microcystin in it was allowable for drinking water under the province's Drinking Water Quality Standards.

He said the discovery was surprising, as Trout Lake "is a pretty cold lake."
He also noted that finding it at this time of year is of much less concern than finding it in May or June.
"That would really be cause for concern," he said. "But it is not a concern in the winter."
He also said the distance from the bloom to the water treatment plant is not a concern. It was found well away from the water intake, and the intake itself is 30 metres below the surface.
Liza Vandermeer, with the MoE, agreed the bloom poses little threat to the city's water supply. Dugas Bay, she said, is about two-and-a-half kilometres from the water intake, and the water treatment plant is "able to cope with any blue-green algae that turns up."
Vandermeer said the sample recovered from the residents was a tiny bloom confined to a shallow bay on the lake.
Blue-green algae, she said, is typically seen in very warm water with high levels of nutrients. Trout Lake has generally low nutrient levels and it's very cold.
The ministry, she said, will continue to respond to any reports of blue-green algae in local waterways.
She said this was the first report the ministry had received of blue-green algae on Trout Lake.

In a news release issued Monday, the city noted that "while this sighting did not affect the treatment process at the water treatment plant, the process has been adjusted slightly as a precautionary measure."
Posted: 9/27/2011 

Blue-green Algae Confirmed In The French River

October 31, 2009
Recent tests done by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) have confirmed the presence of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the French River—from Wolesley Bay to Dry Pine Bay. Samples taken from 18 Mile Bay by the MOE contained Anabaena, a species of blue-green algae capable of producing toxins.

“Although testing has not yet confirmed the presence of toxins, there is still a risk that the algae could produce toxins and that these toxins could remain in the water for approximately three weeks after a bloom event,” says Richard Auld, an environmental support officer with the Sudbury & District Health Unit.

Toxins can irritate the skin and, if ingested, cause diarrhea and vomiting. At high enough levels, toxins can cause liver and nervous system damage.

While algae blooms are visible, the Sudbury & District Health Unit recommends that residents on the French River:
  • NOT use water from the French River to drink, bathe, or shower. Do not allow children, pets and livestock to drink or swim in the water.
  • NOT use herbicides, copper sulphate or other algaecides that may break open the algae cells and release toxins into the water. 
  • NOT boil the water. Boiling the water may release more toxins into the water. 
  • NOT cook with the water. Your food may absorb toxins from the water. 
  • NOT eat the liver, kidneys and other organs of fish caught in the water. Be cautious about eating fish caught in water where blue-green algae blooms occur. 
  • NOT treat the water with a disinfectant like bleach. This may break open algae cells and release toxins into the water. 
  • NOT rely on water jug filtration systems because they do not fully protect against toxin poisoning.

Click here For more information, or call the Sudbury & District Health Unit at:(705) 522-9200, ext. 398.

Media Contact:
Richard Auld, Environmental Support Officer
(705) 522-9200, ext. 243
Posted: 11/3/2007


Lake water Foam
Submitted by Tom Kurtz, from the Severn Sound Environmental Associationhttp://www.severnsound.ca/
Does foam on the shore indicate detergent pollution or poor water quality?

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The short answer is no, not usually. Generally, foam on the open waters of Severn Sound or in local streams is caused by natural phenomena unless it has a perfume smell typical of many synthetic soaps and detergents. Natural materials occurring in water (from aquatic plants and animals) or leached from the soil have the ability to produce foam.

Foam is created when the surface tension of water is reduced and air is mixed in, causing bubble formation. Many substances, called surfactants, will reduce surface tension, and can be found in both plant and animal material, in addition to soaps and detergents. 

"Soap" is defined as compounds of fats, fatty acids, and caustic soda. By reducing the surface tension of water, these materials increase cleansing ability and produce foam. "Detergent" refers to synthetic compounds which also work by reducing surface tension, but have the added properties of softening water and emulsifying (or mixing with) oils. Neither of these cleaning agents should be used where they will directly enter the water. While they are biodegradable, it is the bacteria in soil, not water, which break them down.

Tainted Soil Worries Resident

Contaminated material used to cover landfill site
Posted By Laura Stradiotto, Sudbury Star
French River residents feel like they are getting dumped on - again.
Residents are still fighting the municipality's decision to rezone a parcel of land north of Noelville to allow for a waste recycling plant.
The French River Citizens Action Committee wants to rescind the decision and has taken its concerns to the Ontario Municipal Board. So, when residents saw 70 trucks carrying contaminated soil coming through their community last week, they thought something was awry. "I'm not sure if we have a sign that says 'kick me' or something," said Harold Duff, a Noelville resident and member of the citizens committee.  "Why us? What have we done?"
Duff said the 45-foot-long trucks are hauling contaminated soil from southern Ontario to a nearby landfill site.
"When you're driving through the little village of Noelville, people are very concerned now," he said.
An official with the Ministry of Natural Resources said the contaminated soil is being used to cover household garbage at its Cherriman Waste Disposal site.
Beth Litchfield, acting area supervisor, said the soil is not hazardous or a threat to the environment.
The MNR defines contaminated soil as impure soil which could have chunks of cement, salt from the side of the road or wood fibre in its composition.
"Under the terms of our landfill agreement, we're using it to cap the dumpsite itself," said Litchfield.
"We have to put a significant layer of soil and under our agreement to the Ministry of Environment we can use that type of soil simply to cap the waste, the landfill."
Posted: 12/12/2007