A popular swimming hole has been closed by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Gilmour Point in Battersea was officially closed Aug. 30 due to possible blue-green algae in Dog Lake. The beach is located at the end of Wellington Street and is a busy summer gathering place for local families.
“It’s not uncommon for there to be challenges on Dog Lake,” confirms Wayne Orr, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for South Frontenac Township.
A public servant with the township for eight years, Orr says the closure only impacted the last two-week-session of children’s programs at the beach.
Of the townships four public beaches, Gilmour Point is the only one closed. Samples were taken at the beach and were submitted to a lab for analysis. As of press time, results were still unknown.
Speaking on behalf of the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health Unit on Sept. 6, Andrew Girouard says the turnaround time for testing is 10 to 14 days.
An experienced health inspector, Girouard has seen blooms in Kingston and other parts of the health unit’s catchment area.
“We want to educate people more, to take their own precautions,” says the Manager of the Environmental Health Team about the potentially harmful blooms. “I think this (Gilmour Point Beach) is a case where it’s so visible and present, people won’t go in that water.”
According to officials, cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, are primitive microscopic organisms that have inhabited the earth for more than two billion years. They are bacteria, but have features in common with algae.
Blue-green algae occur naturally in a wide variety of environments including ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. During an algal bloom, people are encouraged to avoid activities such as swimming and bathing in water near the bloom to reduce the risk of exposure to algal toxins.
“We want the public to be aware this bloom exists and not go into the water,” says Girouard who calls the blooms a product of heavy rains and warm weather.
“As soon as the water temperature changes, it will make a difference,” confirms the township CAO.
Located a few minutes from the lake where he worked as a fishing guide, Storrington Councillor Ron Sleeth notes, “Dog Lake turns over every year. This is a natural occurrence.”
Describing the lake as drowned land from the building of the Rideau Canal, the well-known community activist notes, “The problem appears to be worse this year due to the heavy volume of rainfall. The water level is extremely high for this time of year.”
To protect residents against possible exposure, people are encouraged to take a cautious approach if they encounter a blue-green algal bloom which can be dense and solid-looking clumps. Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass and older blooms may smell like rotting garbage.
Although many varieties of blue-green algae are harmless, some can produce toxins that are harmful to the health of humans and animals.
During an algal bloom, health experts recommend avoiding activities such as swimming and bathing in water near the bloom to reduce the risk of exposure to algal toxins. Residents are encouraged to contact the health unit for swimming advisories as well as information on health risks associated with the blooms.
If you suspect a blue-green algal bloom:
• assume toxins are present
• avoid using the water
• restrict pet and livestock access to the water, and
• call the Ministry’s Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.