Blue-green algae at Three Mile Lake

By Ray FordRay Ford

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Three Mile Lake isn’t alone in the campaign against cyanobacteria. Scum has fouled the water in Lake Erie’s western basin, as well as such classic cottage locales as Lake Champlain and Lake of the Woods. Lake Winnipeg, home to more than 10,000 cottages, saw blooms blanketing 8,000 sq. km in 2003 and 13,000 sq. km last year. In 2003, blooms appeared on Sturgeon and Cameron lakes in the Kawarthas, prompting the same sort of health unit advisories issued last fall for Three Mile Lake.

The Three Mile Lake experience will also sound familiar to cottagers on Sturgeon Bay, in the Pointe au Baril area. The bay has suffered from cyanobacterial blooms since 2002, inspiring cottagers, residents, and the Township of the Archipelago to fight back by naturalizing shorelines, inspecting septic systems, and banning lawn fertilizer.

Their next step may be an artificial water-circulation system to break a vicious circle of algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and phosphorus releases. As decaying algae sink to the bottom they use up the oxygen in the deepest part of the bay or lake, setting the stage for a chemical reaction that releases phosphorus from the sediment. This “internal loading” of phosphorus fuels the cycle by driving more algal growth.

To put the brakes on the problem, Sturgeon Bay’s water-quality team is investigating whether a mechanical system that works like a floating, solar-powered blender will mix oxygen through the water, keeping phosphorus locked up and algae under control.

“We’re going to find a solution,” says Township of the Archipelago councillor and Sturgeon Bay resident John Cochrane. “We look at Sturgeon Bay as the canary, not just for Georgian Bay but for a lot of other places. If we can deal with the problem in Sturgeon Bay, it will be a blueprint for action in other areas.”


This article was originally published on May 1, 2006


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