Blue-green algae confirmed at Grand Lake

Toxins associated with blue-green algae have been confirmed in Grand Lake, Nova Scotia, but the province’s Environment Department is awaiting further test results for pesticides and other chemical contaminants.

These results are expected soon, the department said. In the meantime, people are still advised to avoid drinking Grand Lake water and to avoid skin contact with the water.

“We always want people to be careful and not use the water,” Julie Towers, deputy minister of the Department of Environment and Climate Change, told media outside the East Hants Aquatic Center in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia.

“Now that we know he’s in the lake, there’s a good chance there will be more blooms.”

Blue-green algae blooms come and go from the water, but now that the algae is confirmed to be present in Grand Lake, it should not be used as a source of water supply.

The investigation began after a person went to the hospital and two dogs died on Wednesday.

The province had taken samples from Grand Lake and neighboring Fish Lake, located about 30 kilometers north of Halifax, to look for contaminants that could be found in pesticides, toxins produced by algae and E. coli.

The samples were sent to the National Research Council for testing.

Samples from Fish Lake were negative for cyanotoxins, which cause blue-green algae. All other tests for chemical contaminants, in both Fish Lake and Grand Lake, are pending.

Follow-up sampling

While the first results of rapid tests carried out by the department last week were negative for cyanotoxins, Towers said results of rapid tests are often inconclusive.

A professor at Dalhousie University also took water samples last week and determined that there were no toxins associated with blue-green algae in those samples. But Towers said results may vary depending on where and how the samples are collected.

“The pure water sample did not detect anything, but the sample taken from the plant mat, the algae mat, showed a positive result,” she said.

Julie Towers, deputy minister of the Department of Environment and Climate Change, provided an update on the investigation Tuesday afternoon. (Jack Julian / CBC)

Ministry of the Environment staff are planning follow-up sampling.

The department has been in contact with the vet in charge of the autopsies of the deceased dogs, but Towers said there was nothing conclusive yet and tests were underway.

An alert was issued last Thursday morning warning all residents who take water directly from Grand Lake to immediately stop using the water.

Halifax Water and the Regional Municipality of East Hants said their water systems are not affected by the notice.

Drinking water, showers available

The Municipality of East Hants provides free drinking water and showers to anyone in need.

More than 160 people have passed by to use one or both of these services since Thursday, a city official said on Tuesday.

“We want people to do what they think is right and what they trust. Our drinking water is safe from our system… However, if you are more confident in this other service at the moment, do it. absolutely, “Jesse Hulsman told reporters.

Jesse Hulsman is the Director of Infrastructure and Operations for the Municipality of East Hants. (Dave Laughlin / CBC)

People will be on hand at the East Hants Aquatic Center to distribute bottled water daily from 8 a.m. to noon, and again from 5 to 8 p.m. Showers are available as long as the doors of the center are open, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, with reduced hours on weekends.

Hulsman said these services will continue to be available throughout the week.

On Thursday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also issued a notice stating that all fishing and harvesting in Grand Lake is prohibited.

With chemical test results still pending, the ministry said it share these results on Twitter as they arrive, focusing on outcomes that have implications for public safety.

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