LETHBRIDGE - Blue-green algae blooms have been identified in some lakes and dugouts across Alberta, prompting Alberta Agriculture to issue warnings about the dangers.
Agricultural water engineer, Shawn Elgert, says “Blue-green algae is actually cyanobacteria, and can produce toxins that can cause organ damage or even death if ingested by livestock or pets."
“Blue-green algae can look like blue-green scum, pea soup or grass clippings suspended in the water. You should start watching for it when the temperatures increase.”
If the algae is suspected in a dugout, it's best to contact a water specialist to diagnose the growth and remove livestock from the water source.
Elgert says there are remedies.
"A registered copper product will kill most kill most cases of cyanobacteria - if you treat the dugout with copper, the toxins will be released form the cells of the bacteria all at once, so they can break down more quickly in the sunlight. However, water can be highly toxic for up to a month before the toxins break down, so any water usage from the dugout for animals needs to be restricted."
As well, copper is harmful to fish and the cyanobacteria itself can cause fish kills, especially if that growth dies all at once.
Elgert explained that there are also preventative measures.
"Temperature is a very important factor in the growth of cyanobacteria, so a deeper dugout with slopes that are steep, but not too steep, would help make the dugout water cooler and, therefore, help to prevent cyanobacteria from growing."
A fact sheet on blue green algae can be found on the Agriculture Alberta website.
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