Tuesday April 24, 2018

Kennisis River algae not dangerous: MOE

There is no need to worry about algae that, until last week, had been covering part of the Kennisis River between Big Hawk and Halls lakes.

That is the message from Michael Longpre, senior environmental officer with the Peterborough Environment Ministry, who visited the river last week.

By the time of Longpre’s visit, the algae had already been washed away, after officials with the Trent Severn Waterway released a couple of logs from the dam at the Hawk Lake Log Chute.

Longpre did, however, see some photographs that river residents had taken of the algae.

"I saw a picture of the algae, and it is not blue-green algae, but green algae," he said, explaining while blue-green algae is toxic, green algae is harmless to people.

Longpre said the reason for the algae buildup was likely human activity.

"It’s the result of excess nutrients," he said, mostly phosphorus, which can be found in lawn fertilizers and septic tanks.

"The stagnation would be a contributing factor to that."

While Algonquin Highlands Reeve Eleanor Harrison had feared the algae blooms may have ended up on the beach at Elvin Johnson Park, where the township holds its swimming program, Longpre didn’t find any algae on Halls Lake, either.

"That was some good news," Harrison said.

The TSW’s decision to release logs from the log chute dam was directly related to the presence of the algae.

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"We got a couple of calls from individuals concerned about the algae growth," said Dave Ness, water control engineer for the waterway.

One of those calls came from river residents Joan Weir and Brenda Peddigrew, who were visited by Longpre last week.

While Peddigrew had been concerned that a dark, fuzzy substance coating plants and rocks on the riverbed was also algae, according to Longpre, it is "organic matter," or dead vegetation whose buildup could also likely be traced to the stagnant state the river had been in.

Late last week, one of the two logs that had been taken out of the dam was replaced.

While March, April and May were dry months and water levels throughout the county were well below normal, Ness said precipitation in June was near record-setting and that "water is now running on a lot of our dams."

Peddigrew and Weir said the river had run high through the winter up until March, when it just stopped, sinking to a low level and that it was the thought of some of the river residents that the TSW had dropped the proverbial ball.

Ness said the precipitation measurement equipment the TSW uses near Carnarvon had not shown in February that any extra water flow would be required in the area and said that a March without snow had meant the snow pack went down quickly, contributing much less water to the river than usual.

Article ID# 2677152 – Originally posted in The Times (Minden, Ontario)