In this August 2013 photo, Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls stands in Killarney Lake showing some of the blue-green algal blooms that have plagued the area. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Three years is too long for Killarney-Turtle Mountain’s mayor to wait — a solution for the toxic blue-green algae growing on Killarney Lake is needed now, he says.
The town has reluctantly agreed to a three-year joint project with the province and the University of Manitoba. The project will test a clay-based solution designed to trap phosphate at the bottom of the lake.
"I am going along with the project because I have to," Mayor Rick Pauls said Thursday. "We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst."
A year ago, Pauls threatened to dump bluestone, also known as copper sulfate, into Killarney Lake to kill the toxic algae growing on the water.
He was then visited by Manitoba Water Stewardship, Environment Canada and the RCMP with a warning that if he were to dump any amount of bluestone into the lake, he would be arrested and face fines of $300,000.
"I don’t understand why the government refuses to let us use something in the lake that we can already use in drinking water," Pauls said. "The government has gone so far backwards to being overly environmentally friendly that Manitoba is going to become the dandelion and algae capital of Canada soon."
For the first year of the project, researchers will be monitoring and recording the in and out flows of the lake and the water quality.
The second year, a small section will be used to test the clay solution to see if it will work. It won’t be until year three that the entire lake could be treated for algae.
"Even if this solution works, the cost to implement it is mind-boggling," Pauls said.
He estimated that this solution will cost more than $1 million compared to the $30,000 solutions that he has asked the government to approve.
One of the biggest frustrations, according to Pauls, is the lack of understanding the government has for the cause of the toxic blue-green algae.
"In a study that was partly funded by the province, we have learned that algae was growing on this lake long before the intense agriculture began in the area," he said. "But every time the government discusses the issue, the blame is placed on agricultural run-off."
Pauls said that the algae has nothing to do with agricultural run-off, but on the amount of phosphorus already in the lake.
He said the government is choosing to ignore the scientific studies already completed in favour of doing its own research.
"I do not understand why they feel the need to reinvent the science when there are plenty of solutions out there," he said.
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh, along with the province’s representative for the Killarney Lake project, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 8, 2014