in-nb-algea-alert

The health department issued a health advisory for Chamcook Lake earlier this summer. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

A team of biologists in Moncton is trying to find a way to stop blue-green algae from finding its way into many New Brunswick lakes during the summer months.

Alyre Chiasson, a biologist at the University of Moncton, is studying the Irishtown Reservoir, where the algae have, at times, caused the lake to be closed to boating.

He said the colour of the algae can be an impressive sight but it's a sign there are too many nutrients and the water is unhealthy.

"They can deplete the water of oxygen, result in fish kills and they can also produce toxins with health concerns," he said.

Chiasson and his research team are taking water samples from tributaries that run into the Irishtown Reservoir, trying to determine why the phosphorous levels are so high.

The researchers are also testing a clay-like substance called phoslock that bonds to the phosphorous and removes it from the water.

"Applying phoslock will help remove the phosphate that is there, but if there's more continuously coming in you're locked into a cycle having to apply that each year," he said.

This is the first time phoslock has been tried in Atlantic Canada as a way to control the nutrients in a lake.

Dangerous to health

The Department of Health warned the public earlier this summer about swimming in lakes contaminated with blue-green algae.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the chief medical officer of health, said blue-green algae is a particular concern because it can cause skin, eye and throat irritation. If ingested, it could lead to more serious problems.

Blue-green algae blooms can carry potentially deadly toxins.

An Island View man said his dog died after playing in water that had blue-green algae in it.

Don Fraser's black lab puppy, Bob, was only five months old at the time.

Fraser said Bob had been splashing around in the water and playing fetch that day.

"When the dog came back up you could tell there was something drastically wrong with him," he said.

"One eye was rolled up into the socket and a few minutes later he started to stagger and within 20 minutes he was dead."

Fraser said tests showed the puppy had been poisoned by blue-green algae.