Edmonton

Beach weather finally arrives in Alberta — but the water advisories got here first

The long-awaited summer-like weather in Alberta has arrived hand-in-hand with a far less beach-friendly companion: algae and bacteria warnings for area lakes.

Swimming not advised at a handful of lakes due to algae blooms, bacteria outbreaks

Cold Lake in northeastern Alberta is one of many lakes for which health advisories have been issued as a result of bacteria outbreaks or algae blooms. (Alberta Parks)

It's a blooming shame.

The long-awaited summer-like weather in Alberta has arrived hand-in-hand with a far less beach-friendly companion: algae and bacteria warnings for area lakes.

Alberta Health Services has issued advisories for five lakes in the Edmonton region: 

  • Lac Ste. Anne, 80 kilometres west of the city.
  • Islet Lake, 50 kilometres southeast.
  • Buck Lake, 150 kilometres southwest. 
  • Lac la Biche, 215 kilometres northeast.
  • Cold Lake, 300 kilometres northeast.

Three of the lakes have  tested for elevated levels of fecal bacteria in the water and advisories have been issued to avoid swimming or wading on certain beaches. If ingested, the bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness.

The warning was issued on July 10 for Cold Lake's Kinosoo Beach, then AHS added several other locations on Friday:  Kacikewin Campground Beach and Sunset Point Camp Beach at Lac Ste. Anne, and the McArthur and Golden Sands beach areas of Lac la Biche.

Lac Ste. Anne and Lac la Biche have been hit with the double whammy of summer scourges. Blue-green algae blooms were confirmed for both of those lakes, along with two others, earlier this month.

A bloom of blue-green algae as shown by researchers. (Submitted by: University of Alberta)

Naturally occurring algae becomes visible in calm weather conditions. It can look like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of the water. Its colour can have a range of hues from blue and green to brown or pinkish-red. It often smells musty or grassy.

Because wind and weather can move the blooms around, the entire body of water is subject to the advisory, AHS said.

Coming in contact with the algae can cause skin irritation, sore throats and eyes. If ingested, symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. 

Other lakes experiencing blue-green algae blooms are Buck Lake, Islet Lake and Wadlin Lake, which is about 600 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

More information on active health advisories is here.

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