British Columbia

People warned to stay out of Okanagan Valley lake due to algae bloom

Interior Health is warning people to stay out of Wood Lake because an algae bloom in the water has the potential to produce harmful toxins.

Interior Health issues warning about Wood Lake, says some algae has potential to produce toxins

'This was in front of our place on Sunday before the wind picked up,' wrote Stacy Robyn Stephenson in a social media post. (Stacy Robyn Stephenson)

A potentially harmful algae bloom in Wood Lake near Kelowna, B.C., has prompted health authorities to warn people to stay out of the water.

Interior Health says while most algae blooms are harmless, some have the potential to produce toxins that can be harmful to humans.

The health authority advised residents and visitors to avoid all contact with the bloom, avoid swimming in the lake, and to make sure pets and livestock don't use the lake as a source of drinking water.

"I have lived here for over 20 years and have never seen the lake look this bad," said resident Stacy Robyn Stephenson, who observed children and dogs wading in the water near Beasley Park on the south end of the lake Sunday.

Interior Health says there are no toxicity tests being conducted on the bloom, which cannot be remediated.

"Best practice is to not come into contact with a visible bloom and keep your pets out," Interior Health said in a statement.

'Like pea soup'

In a community Facebook group, some residents commented that while an algae bloom is not uncommon in Wood Lake, they had not seen it occur this early in the year.

"Our dog went in white and came out green," wrote Truman Van Nes. "I've never seen it this bad, it's like pea soup."

Algae blooms occur naturally in many lakes throughout B.C. and can last from several days to a few weeks. Interior Health says they cannot be remediated. (Government of B.C.)

Wood Lake, which is situated between Kelowna and Vernon, is a popular destination for fishing, swimming, canoeing and camping.

Algae blooms, which can vary in colour from blue, green and brown to yellow, orange and red, occur naturally throughout B.C. However, man-made sources like agriculture runoff or poorly functioning septic systems can make blooms more likely to develop. 

They appear like foam or scum on the surface of the water and can last days or even months. 

Consuming or coming into contact with contaminated water can cause a range of symptoms that include headaches, nausea, fever, sore throat, dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, blistering of the lips, skin rashes and irritation of the ears and eyes. 

People who have come into contact with an algae bloom and are displaying any these symptoms are advised to see a health-care provider.

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