St. Albans Bay under alert for toxic algae

Water also unsafe in Missisquoi Bay

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

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‘People are very upset. They really are.’

- Steve Cushing, SAAWA president

ST. ALBANS — The Dept. of Health has issued a high alert for blue-green algae in St. Albans Bay, where water quality is already being described as “disgusting” by a watershed official.

The alert is the result of visual observation by state experts who observed large amounts of blue-green algae along with dense scum or highly colored waters. No testing for toxins has been done.

The water is not considered safe for recreational use. Residents should stay out of the water and keep their pets from the water as well.

High alerts have also been issued for portions of Missisquoi Bay in Quebec.

A low alert has been issued for the Larry Greene Fish and Wildlife Access in Swanton. The water is considered safe for recreation, but users are urged to avoid dense accumulations or scums of algae.

“It’s pretty disgusting,” said Steve Cushing, president of the St. Albans Area Watershed Association (SAAWA).”It’s not what a lake should look like.”

“It’s all along the shoreline,” he added. “It’s another disaster going on there.”

If the weather stays warm and calm, Cushing said he expects the blooms to continue.

This is one of the worst summers for the bay he has witnessed, said Cushing, adding, “People are very upset. They really are.”

Blue-green algae, more properly known as cyanobacteria, releases toxins shown to be fatal for animals and potentially harmful for humans. Swallowing water-containing cyanotoxins, including microcystin, can cause nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and cramps. Rashes are also common.

A Canadian study published in January of people living along Missisquoi Bay who had been exposed to cyanotoxins from blue-green algae found possible links between the toxins and irritation of the upper and lower respiratory tract, eyes, ears, and skin as well as muscle pain, headaches, and mouth ulcers.

On Monday the city of Toledo lifted a ban on drinking water from Lake Erie. The ban was initiated when microcystin from blue-green algae were found to be contaminating the city’s water supply.

Like the blooms in Lake Champlain, the blooms in Lake Erie are fed by phosphorous runoff into the lake, much of it from agriculture. According to the New York Times, Ohio officials have relied solely on voluntary measures to reduce phosphorous into Lake Erie, just as Vermont has with Lake Champlain.

The current bloom in Lake Erie is neither the largest on record nor the first to shutdown a municipal drinking supply. In 2011, algal blooms in the lake stretched 120 miles from Toledo to Cleveland.

  • Mike Singdog

    Gotta change the way we farm.

  • John Parizeau

    No one will change unless its mandatory ….