Blue-green algae alert remains in effect 7 months later at Elk/Beaver Lake

Blue-green algae alert remains in effect 7 months later at Elk/Beaver Lake
Blue-green algae is pictured in this file photo.

A blue-green algae alert that was first issued at Elk/Beaver Lake last year is still in effect some seven months later, according to the Capital Regional District.

The alert was first issued on Oct. 16 after unsafe levels of the microscopic organism was found in the lake.

Blue-green algae is generally not visible to the naked eye, but it can sometimes appear on the surface of the water as a blue and green surface scum. Even if it’s not visible, however, the algae can still be harmful to both humans and pets, causing symptoms like headaches and abdominal pain for humans, or lethal liver damage to dogs.

Dogs should be kept on a leash, and both humans and dogs should avoid ingesting any water from the lake while the alert is in effect.

The CRD says it continues to work with Island Health to regularly test the water and will lift the alert once the bloom is no longer visible, and after two consecutive water tests show safe levels of the algae.

Effects of new $1.4M oxygenator

The seven-month blue-green algae alert comes after the CRD installed a long awaited oxygenator at Elk/Beaver Lake late last year.

The oxygen-generating system was installed in November 2023 and is designed to pump oxygen into the deepest part of Elk Lake, which will help disperse decades of accumulated sediment.

This, in turn, would reduce the frequency of blue-green algae blooms and improve fish habitat in the lake, according to the CRD.

On Wednesday, the CRD told CHEK News that while the new oxygenator is installed, it will take some time before results appear as the regional district fine tunes the device and studies its impact on the lake.

“The factors impacting freshwater quality are complex, and it is expected that the first 12-18 months after the oxygenator system is up and running may result in either an improvement or decrease in water quality,” said the CRD.

“It’s also possible vegetation and blue-green algae within the lake may increase during the initial operating period of the oxygenator system as more oxygen is introduced to the lake.”

The CRD says that the oxygenator is just “one component” of a multi-pronged approach to water quality at the lake.

The device cost $1.4 million to build, with $750,000 of that total coming from the province.

Going forward, operating costs of the device are estimated to be $100,000 to $150,000 annually, according to the CRD.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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