Sudbury·Audio

Phoslock being considered to fix algae problem in Sudbury's Simon Lake

A lake in Greater Sudbury is the latest to be considered for a controversial treatment for algae.

Scientist says being patient, letting polluted environments recover on their own is usually the best approach

Something called phoslock is being considered as a solution to the perennial algae problem in Greater Sudbury's Simon Lake. It would see tonnes of clay dumped into the lake, trapping phosporous in the lake bottom, so algae can't feed on it. So far, it's only been approved for use in a bay of Lake Huron. (City of Greater Sudbury)

A lake in Greater Sudbury is the latest to be considered for a controversial treatment for algae.

It's called phoslock — a clay-based component that keeps phosphorous from feeding the green scum that mars many northern lakes.

A Simon Lake in Naughton — or "Slimon Lake" as many locals call it — there's been a focused effort to do something about the algae.

The latest possibility being looked at is adding phoslock.

But it's a solution that Laurentian University earth sciences professor and Simon Lake resident David Pearson isn't crazy about.

"There's always an inclination to look for a quick fix. Something that one can drop into the water that will clean it up," he said.

Waterfront property owners on algae-plagued lakes across Ontario are considering phoslock, but the Ministry of Natural Resources has only approved it in one place — Sturgeon Bay near Pointe-Au-Baril.

But after getting the greenlight, the local town council changed its mind and shut the door on phoslock.

Cottage owner Helen Tedford suspects the algae-free summer clouded council's judgement.

"You know, if everything's going good, like this year, the water's great and what's the big deal," she said.

"But I can guarantee you in 2016 or 2017, if the water goes down again and there's blue-green algae, they're going to be screaming again."

While Tedford admits that phoslock is untested, she is willing for her bay to be the guinea pig for the rest of the province.

Pearson said that being patient and letting polluted environments recover on their own is usually the best approach.

"Interfering with an ecosystem by adding something to it — one has to be really, really careful that you don't end up with a problem that was bigger than the one you were trying to solve," he said.

An example of a quick fix that went awry was the adding of lime to acidic Sudbury lakes, which further disrupted the ecosystem.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now