Potentially toxic algae infiltrating New Brunswick lakes

Cottagers in New Brunswick need to be extra careful during these last few weeks of summer as harmful algae has polluted popular swimming lakes throughout the province.

Blue-green algae, a type of bacteria that is harmful to humans and can be fatal to animals, has been reported in seven lakes in New Brunswick. One of the latest sightings was in Washademoak Lake, a popular site for waterfront cottages.

Meanwhile, the City of Moncton has closed off the reservoir in Irishtown Nature Park, a picturesque space with more than 250 acres of water, due to the possible presence of the algae.

“Due to warm temperatures, blue-green algae are collecting along the banks of the reservoir, therefore the water is off limits to recreation,” the city said in a statement. “Kayaking and canoeing is suspended at this time.”

Technically called cyanobacteria and colloquially known as pond scum, blue-green algae forms large blooms that thrive on the surface of shallow, warm waters. The algae may also be present in water without evidence of any blooms.

Fresh blooms smell like newly mown grass, while old blooms can smell like rotting garbage. The actual blooms can look anywhere from bluish green swirls to  pea soup.

Exposure to the bacteria may cause irritation or hives, rashes and skin blisters, and ingesting the water can cause headaches, fever, sore throat, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If you think you may have come in contact with blue-green algae, the Department of Health says you should “remove any affected clothing and rinse thoroughly in clean water after coming ashore.”

Instances of blue-green algae have popped up in lakes across the country this summer. The bacteria have reportedly affected a dozen lakes in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Lake Erie in Ontario.