Nova Scotia

Advisory to remain in place for Grand Lake over the weekend

Nova Scotia's deputy environment minister said investigations are continuing into a suspected blue-green algae bloom in Grand Lake. An advisory remains in place in the meantime.

Deputy environment minister spoke to reporters Friday afternoon

The deputy minister gave an update on the investigation into possible blue-green algae in Grand Lake. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Investigations into a suspected blue-green algae bloom in Grand Lake are continuing and an advisory remains in effect until the source of contamination is identified, says Nova Scotia's deputy minister of the environment. 

Julie Towers spoke to reporters in Halifax on Friday afternoon. 

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

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

Residents near Grand Lake who don't receive water from a municipal utility are advised not to consume their water, or use it for cooking, bathing, swimming or boating, until told otherwise.

Rapid testing negative for blue-green algae

The department said the advisory includes anyone who has a shallow drilled or dug well that is less than 30 metres deep and is within 60 metres of the lake.

Towers said staff of the Environment Department have completed some rapid testing that came back negative for blue-green algae.

She noted that the results were not surprising given that it is "tricky to detect" as a result of the changing weather conditions at the lake over the past few days. 

Towers said a photograph taken by first responders showed the vibrant colour that is characteristic of blue-green algae blooms. Other parts of the lake are being tested.

"Until we get the results, we want people to be cautious. So the advisory's in place. No contact with the water, please," Towers said. 

Julie Towers is the deputy minister for the Department of Environment and Climate Change. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The deputy minister said test results for pesticides and other chemical contamination could return by Monday or Tuesday.

She said she was working with the affected municipalities to ensure residents of the area do not use water from Grand Lake. 

Towers cautioned residents with in-home water treatments that those systems cannot treat for things like the toxins associated with blue-green algae. 

She said with climate change creating warmer conditions, it is likely that Nova Scotia will have "more blooms in more sites" in the future. 

Tap water is safe in Halifax, East Hants

Halifax Water and the East Hants Regional Municipality both confirmed Thursday morning that their water systems are not affected by this advisory after the emergency alert caused some confusion for customers.

In a statement, Halifax Water clarified that its tap water remains safe as it doesn't draw from Grand Lake.

"There's no effect on Halifax Water customers at all ... their tap water is perfectly safe to drink," said James Campbell, the spokesperson for Halifax Water.

The utility does operate three water systems within the same watershed as Grand Lake, including Bomont, Collins Park and Bennery Lake, but none of those systems draw water from Grand Lake.

The East Hants Regional Municipality also released a statement saying there is no known risk to its utility customers, although it does rely on the Grand Lake watershed.

"We know it's just generalized in Grand Lake right now so it's immediate users of the lake itself that need to be following extra due diligence right now," Jesse Hulsman with the Municipality of East Hants told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday. 

On Thursday evening, the municipality announced it would provide free drinking water to residents who can't use their water because of the advisory.

Residents must bring their own containers and follow public health protocols, including wearing a mask and practising physical distancing. The water is being distributed at the East Hants Aquatic Centre on Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and  noon and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Residents are expected to bring their own water receptacles. 

Shower facilities for residents will also be available at the aquatic centre on a first-come-first-served basis starting Friday evening at the same times as water distribution.

With files from Cassidy Chisholm