Austin, a dog belonging to Dr. Lyn Pascoe, died last year after ingesting blue-green algae from Quamichan Lake. (Submitted photo)

Strategies to fix toxic algae problem in Quamichan Lake to be considered

Task Force to table recommendations

Ways to reduce nutrient levels in Quamichan Lake and comprehensive water monitoring programs for the area will be considered by the Municipality of North Cowichan at next week’s council meeting.

A number of recommendations to council have been made by the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force as efforts are expected to begin soon to deal with nutrient loading in the lake.

There have been at least four reported dog deaths around Quamichan Lake last year, and all are suspected to be caused by ingesting toxic blue-green algae from the lake.

North Cowichan decided to set up the task force, consisting of staff and council members, along with water specialists, to study and seek solutions to the ongoing health issues related to the algae soon after.

As expected, the task force concluded the nutrients that are causing the algae outbreak in the lake are coming from a number of sources, including urban runoff, and runoff from nearby agricultural lands, construction areas and logging sites.

The task force recommends that North Cowichan develop a comprehensive program to address the sources of the nutrients by zoning, permitting, regulating and other methods.

The program could include requiring more nearby homes be connected to sewer systems rather than septic tanks, having runoff management from properties built into zoning and building permits, and increasing the use of row and townhouse developments to reduce soil disturbance.

As for strategies to lower and/or eliminate the blue-green algae currently in the lake, the task force recommends a number of possibilities.

They include the construction of a prototype to skim the algae from the lake, aeration to help treat water before it makes its way into the lake, and adding species like crayfish and more trout to the lake that would help reduce its nutrient levels.

The task force also recommends a public education program be established to teach people how to avoid adding more nutrients to the lake, and the initiation of a monitoring program that would show the results of the chosen strategies and suggest new ones, if necessary.

North Cowichan’s council will consider the report’s recommendations at its meeting on July 19, beginning at 1:30 p.m.