Water board wants help fighting algae blooms

New measures are being demanded to fight a potential threat to water quality.

New measures are being demanded to fight a potential threat to water quality.

Okanagan Basin Water Board directors voted Tuesday to write the Ministry of Health and request that a blue green algae response protocol be completed for communities.

“There’s nothing in place for municipalities or water utilities to react,” said Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB executive director.

“There’s a draft (of the protocol) in place, sitting on the desk of the deputy minister of health.”

It was anticipated the ministry’s response protocol would be released in the spring.

The process began after a blue green algae bloom on Osoyoos Lake in 2013 and blooms on high elevation lakes near Summerland and West Kelowna.

Growth of blue-green algae is often triggered by phosphorus pollution combined with stable weather and warm water temperatures.

“Only certain species produce toxins, but it’s not possible to identify them by sight, so lab tests are necessary,” states the OBWB website. There is a concern that an outbreak of the algae could negatively impact beaches and water intakes.

While the Ministry of Health continues to review the proposed protocol, some OBWB officials believe they should notify municipal staff about the issue.

“We should take a leadership role,” said director Tracy Gray.

“It’s important to reiterate that those people know what to look for.”

Response to an algae bloom appears limited.

“You can’t disperse the bloom but you can close a beach,” said Warwick Sears.

That view is also supported by director Peter Waterman.

“There’s nothing you can do but avoidance,” he said.