A new public education campaign will help Nova Scotians become more aware of blue-green algae when enjoying the province’s outdoors with the arrival of warmer weather.
Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are naturally occurring in fresh water like lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. They can flourish in water high in nutrients, especially during hot, dry conditions. The bacteria can be harmful to people and fatal for animals, so it is important that Nova Scotians know what to look for and how to protect themselves, their families and pets.
“Nova Scotians are noticing the impacts of climate change and seeing more blue-green algae is a perfect example,” said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr, on behalf of Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman. “We want everyone to enjoy water activities and all Nova Scotia has to offer, but safely. Knowing what to look for allows people to be alert and make informed decisions.”
The public education campaign will include a website dedicated to information about and reports of blue-green algae, including photos of what to look for; an educational video; advertising; social media posts; signs at provincial beaches; and posters and resource materials.
Some of the key information for Nova Scotians includes:
- people should always scan the water and shoreline before entering the water or letting children or pets play in it
- swimming in contaminated water can lead to itchy, irritated eyes and skin
- swallowing or inhaling the water can cause headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- pets may be attracted to the smell of algae mats and ingestion could be fatal. People who see blue-green algae are asked to report it to the local Environment and Climate Change office at: 1-877-936-8476. Quotes: “It’s important that Nova Scotians are aware of the health effects blue-green algae can have on people and their pets. As the weather gets warmer – during this summer season and longer term due to climate change – we can expect to see more of these algae blooms. Taking the time to learn what to look for and sharing this information with friends and family will help us to live with blue-green algae as safely as possible.”
- Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health
- algae blooms can look like fine grass clippings in the water, spilled paint, pea soup or sometimes like a thick scum on the surface
- algae mats can be found in shallow areas of lakes and rivers and the shoreline
- mats can look like clumps of vegetation, and can appear black, brown or dark green in the water and may appear grey when on the shoreline
- blue-green algae can move around, reform and recur, making testing unreliable in large bodies of water