Montreal has its fair share of beach closings this summer due to poor water quality and we may see some more in the near future. And it's all because of the heat and blue-green algae.
Blue-green algae have always been present in Quebec lakes and rivers. In low concentrations, it's not much of a problem. But the mix of Quebec's rainy spring causing runoff into the water and the heat of this summer has created the perfect recipe for Blue-green algae to bloom. And bloomin' they are.
You've probably seen 'algal blooms' before. It that green, scummy layer on the top of the water. It can be as light as spilled paint or more textured like 'pureed vegetables.' Either way, it's gross.
At this time it's almost impossible to know just how bad Quebec's blue-green algae proliferation has become since the Quebec government only tests bodies of water used for drinking.
Swimming in water with high concentrations of blue-green algae, AKA "cyanobacteria," can have serious health consequences. They can produce a toxic substance that causes symptoms like:
If you think you have been in contact with cyanobacteria and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact Info-Santé 811.
Don't forget to keep an eye on any pets you have if you're near a lake. Blue-green algae can be especially harsh on animals and wildlife as they are also more prone to ingest the water.
Keep in mind that most domestic water purifiers aren't enough to get rid of blue-green algae. So that Brita is useless in this case. And boiling water can actually intensify the toxicity.
If you're near a lake with blooms, it's recommended to keep at least three meters away from the scum. If the blooms or scum have disappeared it's still best to not swim in the water for the next 24 hours.
To learn more about blue-green algae, check out Environment Quebec's website.