Potential Blue-green Algae Detected in High River’s Emerson Lake

HIGH RIVER, AB: The Town of High River is advising residents that small amounts of blue-green algae have been detected in Emerson Lake. As a precaution residents should avoid contact with the water and not allow pets to drink from the lake.

The Town has posted signage around the lake warning users of the possible presence of blue-green algae.

Frequently asked questions about blue-green algae: 

What is blue-green algae?

Also known as “cyanobacteria,” blue green algae occur naturally in many Alberta lakes. Most of the year, it is present at low levels and is less of a concern. However, warm summer weather allows the organism to increase rapidly or “bloom.”

Why should I avoid blue-green algal blooms?

  • Blue-green algae can produce a toxin that may present a health risk to humans and animals.
  • Contact with a blue-green algae bloom can cause eye, ear, skin irritation, rashes and allergic reactions.
  • Ingesting untreated contaminated water from the lake can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and liver damage; in high concentrations the toxin can cause severe illness and death.

What does a blue-green algal bloom look like?

  • Blue-green algae blooms can appear blue-green, green-brown, brown or red/pink. It may look like grass clippings, fuzz balls or paint/pea soup. Decomposing blooms can appear white or purple, and smell of ammonia.
  • Blue-green algae blooms are unpredictable, can develop very quickly and can move to other areas of the lake.

How can I protect myself and others?

  • Avoid swimming in water with visible blooms. Areas without visible blooms may still be used.
  • Do not drink untreated lake water. Boiling the water does not remove or destroy toxins.
  • Avoid contact with blue-green algae that has washed up on shorelines.
  • Keep children, pets and livestock away from blue-green algal blooms.