Posted by: Vicki Burns | August 2, 2017

Blue-Green Algae Fouling Lake Winnipeg Beaches Again 2017

The hot summer weather in Manitoba has brought along another reminder that all is not well in our great Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. Blue-green algae blooms have appeared at Victoria Beach on the east side of the lake, as well as at several other lakes in Manitoba. Algae advisory signs have been posted at Killarney Lake, Pelican Lake, Shoal Lake and Rivers Reservoir.

These blue-green algae blooms may contain toxins that are damaging to human health and can be lethal to animals including dogs and livestock. If there is a bloom present people are advised to keep animals out of the water and not to use it as a source of drinking water.
The problems of toxic blue-green algae are caused by too much phosphorus and nitrogen getting into our lakes via streams and rivers that flow into the lakes. Those nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) are present in human sewage, animal manure and chemical fertilizers. Human sewage is discharged into streams that end up in the lake. Even though the sewage is treated before its released much of it is not treated enough to reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen adequately. Animal manure is often spread on fields as fertilizers and if all the phosphorus and nitrogen is not taken up by whatever crop is growing, the excess becomes available to run off during big rains or during snowmelt.
In Manitoba we have the biggest hog industry of any province in Canada, producing 8 to 9 million pigs per year. Our current provincial government is trying to encourage the expansion of the hog industry by loosening regulations around manure disposal. This move comes at a time when we know our lakes are already suffering from too much phosphorus and nitrogen so there is growing opposition to it.
I am part of a group called Hog Watch Manitoba and we are trying to encourage our government and hog producers to move away from raising pigs in this industrial style that threatens water quality to an alternative model that is much more sustainable. We are planning a public forum in September to provide more information about what the problem is and how we can fix it. Stay tuned for more details on the forum.

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