Thunder Bay

Blue-green algae confirmed in Thunder Bay-area lake, province says

Provincial environmental officials have confirmed blue-green algae in a lake north of Thunder Bay, Ont., according to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks probing whether algae is a toxic strain

A file photo of blue-green algae. The substance was confirmed in Hawkeye Lake, north of Thunder Bay, according to provincial environmental officials. (Submitted by: University of Alberta)

Provincial environmental officials have confirmed blue-green algae in a lake north of Thunder Bay, Ont., according to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks found the substance in Hawkeye Lake, the health unit said in a written release issued Friday. The ministry is still investigating whether the algae found is a toxic strain.

The algae are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in lakes and streams, usually in low numbers, the health unit said. However, they can quickly increase in number in warm, shallow surface water that receives a lot of sunlight.

When that happens, they form blooms that turn the water turquoise or into the colour of pea soup. Some of those blooms can produce toxins that are dangerous to people and animals when they are ingested, inhaled or come into contact with skin, the health unit said.

Public health officials added that people and pets shouldn't drink the water where algae blooms are present. As well, people shouldn't use affected water for household purposes and should avoid swimming in it.

Pet owners should also keep their pets away from the water as animals have died from drinking contaminated water, the health unit said.

The health unit also advised that if contact with the algae does occur, wash with soap and water and rinse with clean water to remove it.

Public health officials added that algae blooms are rare in northwestern Ontario, but "with rising water temperatures they may become more common."

Any suspected blooms should be reported to the Spills Action Centre, the health unit said.

now