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“We’ve been finding them everywhere:” HRM holds blue-green algae info session – Halifax |


The Halifax Regional Municipality is asking residents to familiarize themselves with blue-green algae, a harmful bacteria that can be found naturally in lakes, rivers, ponds and streams.

An information session on blue-green algae was held at Oat Hill Lake in Dartmouth, one of the places where the bacteria was reported last month.

“We’ve been finding them everywhere,” says Elizabeth Montgomery, HRM’s water resources specialist. “We’re not sure if they’re new… we suspect that people are looking for them now.”

HRM’s Water Resources Specialist, Elizabeth Montgomery, says blue-green algae presents serious health risks for humans, and especially pets.

Vanessa Wright/Global News

Also known as cyanobacteria, algae are some of the oldest organisms on earth and can be found naturally in lakes, rivers and ponds in and around the Halifax region.

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“They can look like spilled paint…they can look like glass spillings or an oil spill,” Montgomery says.

In June, there were numerous reports of blue-green algae, including at lakes in Lunenburg County and Kings County.

The only active report of blue-green algae is at Cunard Beach in Halifax.

Categorizing blue-green algae

Cyanobacteria can take many forms but are generally categorized as “blooms” or “mats.”

Blue-green algae blooms are typically bright green and free-floating on the surface of the water. They can produce dangerous toxins.

Surface bloom of blue-green algae from Lake Banook

Surface bloom of blue-green algae from Lake Banook.

Halifax Regional Municipality

Blue-green algae mats typically grow along the bottom of the lake.

Benthic mat of blue-green algae at Fish Lake in 2022.

Benthic mat of blue-green algae at Fish Lake in 2022.

Halifax Regional Municipality

Major health risks

The toxins from cyanobacteria can cause itchiness, redness, rashes or hives if ingested by humans.

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For pets, it can be fatal.

There has been one confirmed pet fatality in Nova Scotia as a result of blue-green algae.

A dog died last month after an exposure to blue-green algae at Long Lake in Hammonds Plains.

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“The fatalities we are seeing are coming because these mats wash up on shore, and we think that they’re sending out a smell that makes dogs interested,” Montgomery says.

“So, they’re eating the mat material and it’s a pretty potent neurotoxin.”

Emma Wattie, an HRM environment manager, says pet owners should closely supervise their pets when allowing them to roam freely outdoors, especially near large bodies of water.

An HRM environment manager, Emma Wattie, says pet owners should take precautions when near large bodies of water.

Vanessa Wright/ Global News

“Observe your dogs, try not to let them eat anything kind of gross looking,” Wattie says. “And if you suspect that they might’ve eaten something… talk to your vet right away.”

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A warning sign has been put up at Cunard beach to alert residents of the cyanobacteria, and its risks. City officials say they plan to put up more “permanent” signs.

A warning sign at Cunard beach in Halifax, advising residents of the blue-green algae present.

Vanessa Wright/ Global News

“If you see something suspicious, assume that its toxic,” Montgomery says.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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