TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Sand castles line the beach of Killarney Lake in this file photo.
Three beaches in Westman received failing grades from water tests conducted by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship last week.
Water in Killarney Lake and Pelican Lake showed the number of blue-green algae cells and the concentration of microcystin, an algal toxin, were above the recreational water quality guideline for the province.
As a result of the tests, drinking, swimming or any other contact with the water at Killarney Beach and Pelican Lake’s south and north beaches is not recommended.
The failed tests aren’t unique to Westman as five other beaches throughout the province also failed tests and are currently under an algae advisory.
"A lot of it depends on which way the wind is blowing," said Jay Struth, chair of the Killarney Lake Action Committee, adding that a westerly wind can cause a high amount of algae to gather at the Killarney Beach location, causing dense blooms and giving way to microcystin.
Killarney has been at the forefront when it comes to researching methods to combat the blooms.
In 2001, former Brandon University student Jeremy Ross conducted a study in conjunction with the town to examine the inhibitory effects of barley straw on algae in a Prairie water body. The study, which was conducted in the third cell of the sewage lagoon in Killarney wasn’t tested in the lake, however, due to environmental officials citing unknown effects on other organisms, according to Dr. Bill Paton, a biology and botany professor at Brandon University.
"Our main problem is internal loading, so the phosphorus re-releases every summer and creates a perpetual problem," Struth said. "We’re looking at creating a good water budget. We need to get all of the available data we have together, fill in some gaps and then really see what could be a useful treatment against the algae."
A pontoon boat equipped with a skimmer to lift the algae out of the water has been successful, according to Struth, but a big step in the battle against the algae came this spring when the committee requested the help of a newly formed science committee.
Selina Randall, co-ordinator of the watershed systems research program at the University of Manitoba, is acting as a liaison between the scientists and the action committee.
"We got involved because the Killarney Lake Action Committee asked us for our advice," Randall said. "We have a range of scientists that come from the university level, the department of fisheries and oceans, (Manitoba Water Stewardship) and a range of other organizations that have expertise in water quality issues and control measures for them."
The first step in the battle against the blooms will be amassing as much data regarding the nutrients in the lake as possible, according to Randall, something the science committee will aid the action group in doing.
"The algae blooms are the problem and we know the cause is the nutrient enrichment in the lake," Randall said. "The issue is how the nutrients got there, where did they come from and how can we reduce whats in the lake. All of that will help to reduce the algae blooms."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 14, 2012