Blue-green algae and affected waterways

If you suspect a blue-green algae bloom, speak to a public health inspector in the Environmental Health Division by contacting Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has confirmed that these waterways have blue-green algae. The MOECC collects and tests algae samples and reports the results to the Health Unit.

Waterways confirmed to have blue-green algae in the Sudbury and district area

2018

Affected waterwayAreaDate
Clearwater LakeSudburyJuly 12, 2018
Ramsey LakeSudburyAugust 9, 2018
Lake NepahwinSudburyAugust 16, 2018
Lake NipissingSudbury EastAugust 16, 2018
Red Deer LakeSudburyAugust 29, 2018
Lake KagawongManitoulin IslandSeptember 24, 2018
McCharles LakeSudburySeptember 28, 2018
Kakakiwaganda LakeSudbury EastOctober 26, 2018

What are blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in lakes and streams. They are usually present in low numbers. Blue-green algae can rapidly increase in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that gets a lot of sun. When this happens, they can form blooms that discolour the water or produce floating rafts or scum on the surface of the water.

What are the potential health effects from drinking or coming in contact with blue-green algae?

Some blue-green algae produce toxins (Government of Canada) that can pose a health risk to people and animals when they are exposed to them in large amounts. Your health may be impacted when surface scum or water containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins are swallowed, come into contact with the skin, or when airborne drops containing toxins are inhaled while swimming, bathing or showering.

Consuming water

Ingestion of high levels of blue-green algal toxins have been associated with effects on the liver and nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock and people. Livestock and pet deaths have occurred when animals consumed large amounts of algal scum.

Direct contact, or breathing airborne droplets

Coming in contact with high levels of blue-green algal toxins while swimming or showering can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat and inflame the respiratory tract.

Recreational contact

Swimming and household contact, such as bathing or showering, with water not visibly affected by a blue-green algae bloom is not expected to cause health effects. However, some individuals can be especially sensitive to even low levels of algal toxins and might experience mild symptoms such as skin, eye or throat irritation or allergic reactions.

How can I avoid exposure to blue-green algae?

Never drink untreated surface water, whether or not algae blooms are present. Untreated surface water may contain other bacteria, parasites or viruses, as well as algal toxins that could cause illness if consumed.

People not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated, because in-home treatments such as boiling and disinfecting water with chlorine or UV and water filtration units do not protect from blue-green algal toxins.

People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discoloured or has scum on the surface. Colours can include shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. If contact does occur, wash with soap and water or rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove algae.

Stop using the water and seek medical attention if symptoms such as skin, eye or throat irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties occur while in contact with untreated surface water. However, swimming, bathing or showering with water not visibly affected by a blue-green algae bloom is not expected to cause health effects.

Do not eat the liver, kidneys and other organs of fish caught in the water body. Be cautious about eating fish caught in water where blue-green algae blooms occur.

What should I do if I suspect blue-green algae?

If you suspect a blue-green algae bloom, speak to a public health inspector in the Environmental Health Division by calling 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200.


This item was last modified on October 26, 2018