Cyanobacteria in our Lakes and Rivers across Canada and the US (better know as blue-green algae) is a very serious problem. It also a fairly common problem this time of year. Warm, still, stagnant water with too much nutrient will result in blue-green algae. There is a solution: make blue-green algae less common. How do you do this? Enforce environmental laws.
Blue-green algae is serious because the toxins produced by the algae are dangerous if you eat infected fish or birds, you touch or you drink contaminated water. You can get very sick with liver or nervous system damage. It also causes deadly consequences to wildlife and pets. It can kill dogs and cause fish, bird and mammal deaths. It is very important that you know about the problem to avoid severe consequences. You should know where and when it is happening and how to protect yourself, your family and your friends from it.
The problem is becoming more and more common.
Right now there are warnings of blue-green algae in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario watersheds in addition to warnings in the United States. Although the chain reaction causing blue-green algae is natural, what precipitates the problem is made by people.
We are allowing too much nutrient into our waters from a variety of sources:
storm water loaded with fertilizers;
agricultural run-off ripe with manure;
faulty or under-resourced septic systems; and
consumer products with high phosphorous content (like automatic dishwater soaps).
On top of the nutrient inputs, our governments have made too many cuts and roll-backs to our environmental laws and planning processes. We are building bad projects and allowing illegal activities to prosper without the proper science or enforcement resources to protect our water and our communities.
What should we do? Simple. We need to make blue-green algae less common.
How do we do that? Also simple:
Your politicians, community leaders and industry leaders need to be less cynical about environmental regulations and protections.
These laws are not Red Tape. The laws work because they protect your rights to safely swim, drink, and fish in your water. Without their protections there are consequences. You lose the things you love most about living on or near water. The joy you get from swimming on a hot summer day can be lost in one hot week if you don't keep pollutants out of the water.
Your leaders need to respect your concerns and the concerns of your community at the grassroots.
Your leaders need to respect concerned citizens and activists that ground-truth what is happening on our waters and witness the direct impacts of pollution on our communities. The problems are real and there needs to better response mechanisms to deal with pollution reports than the usual deny, diminish, deflect and applaud reaction of cynical officials and politicians.
Your public officials need to enforce our environmental protections.
Your public officials need to mandate proper infrustructure for sewage and stormwater. They need to inform citizens about warnings and concerns. They need to educate citizens -- you -- about how to reduce nutrient run-off. They need to work with industry to reduce phosphorous in consumer soaps and products.
You can also do your part to reduce the problem.
Proper septic systems need to be built and inspected regularly. You can buy soap with less phosphorous, use less fertilizer on lawns and leave natural buffer zones between property and the shorelines to reduce run-off.
You can support groups and community leaders.
You need to support the informed and knowledgeable environmental groups and politicians who stand out and seek support to create and enforce our environmental protections.
Without these protections, there are consequences. Without these protections, you will not have water to swim, drink and fish for your community.
You can make a difference! Text DRINK to 45678 to make a $10 donation to Lake Ontario. Thank you!