Cottagers look to clay remedy for blue-green algae

The perennial problem of blue-green algae is popping up again in some northern Ontario lakes this summer.

Waiting on provincial approval after 10 years of lake water looking 'like green paint'

A blue-green algae bloom has been confirmed at Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. Cottagers further south on Lake Huron's Sturgeon Bay are hopeful a clay-based additive to the lake may help with their decade-old battle with the toxic algae bloom. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

The perennial problem of blue-green algae is popping up again in some northern Ontario lakes this summer.

And many waterfront property owners have their eyes on a bay of Lake Huron where a possible solution is in the works.

Roughly 10 years of blue-green algae blooms and warnings about drinking, swimming or boating in the water have prompted cottagers on Sturgeon Bay near Pointe Au Baril to look for a fix.

Ian MacLeod said if knew then what he knows now, he never would have bought a cottage there.

"You know, when your water looks like green paint, it's just extremely disturbing," he said.

The concerned residents found Phoslock — clay infused with chemicals that would be dumped into the bay to neutralize phosphorus, one of the causes of the algae. The province has yet to okay the idea, however.

Terry Rees from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations said he hears worries about blue-green algae in all corners of the province.

But he said it's hard to know if there are more blooms these days, or just more reports of blooms.

"It can cause some panic — rightly or wrongly — frankly," he said. "But it has really highlighted that people need to take care of their local resource."

Ministry testing

So far, despite a hot summer, the number of blooms in Ontario is about the same as this time last year, Rees said.

Nevertheless, Sturgeon Bay cottager Ian MacLeod said something needs to be done about the blooms, which have been painting the bay green for the past decade.

"On a micro level, it's disturbing that it's at my dock," he said.

"From a macro level, from 40,000 feet, you say 'My god, this is really bad.’"

The Ministry of Natural Resources is considering the Sturgeon Bay proposal to use Phoslock.

The ministry said part of its decision will be based on a test run of the chemical-infused clay, currently ongoing in the West Holland River near Newmarket.