Saanich local James Younger raised the alarm on Tuesday when he found blue-green algae in the water at Prospect Lake while walking four dogs. He was concerned for the dogs’ safety, and the safety of other locals who might not be aware of the danger.
Younger said no one he had spoken to in the community was aware of the threat from the potentially-toxic algae, not even the man he saw fishing in the lake that day. He said he saw the man pull the fish out of the water through the algae and then put a cigarette to his lips after, as he had thought it was just pollen in the water.
The biggest issue, Younger said, is the area is not adequately signed and there has been little effort to otherwise notify the community. On Wednesday morning, there were signs at both the south and north ends of the lake, but the sign at the south end is below knee-height and the sign at the north end near Whitehead Park is partially obscured by a bush.
Younger said he didn’t see the sign because it was below eye-level and feels it needs to be more clearly marked.
Prospect Lake Park is a Saanich park. Warnings about blue-green algae in local water and recommendations for how to safely deal with them come from Island Health, but Saanich posts the signs.
The District of Saanich tweeted Oct. 25, when the bloom first appeared, and there is a current beach advisory for Prospect Lake-Whitehead Park dated Oct. 25 on Island Health’s Recreational Water & Beach Reports page. Signs are supposed to stay posted 10 days after the last sighting of blue-green algae in the water.
There is a Blue/Green Algae Bloom in Prospect Lake. Parks department will be posting signage in the area.
Lake may be unsafe for people and pets.
Do not swim in or directly access areas of scum.
Do not drink lake water.
Keep pets and livestock away.
— District of Saanich (@saanich) October 26, 2019
In Aug. 2018, Island Health announced it would stop regularly testing water quality at public beaches in 2019, and asked municipalities to take over. In August 2019, the District of Saanich was still in the process of taking on the water sampling at beaches in the District.
On Wednesday Nov. 6, spokesperson from the District of Saanich Kelsie McLeod said blue-green algae monitoring is under the purview of Island Health and that Saanich’s role is simply to post advisory signs as per Island Health’s direction.
Residents of Vancouver Island are encouraged to contact their local health authority if they’re concerned about blue-green algae blooms in a body of water used for drinking or for recreation.
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