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Concerns about blue-green algae on the rise

According to the CBC, Ecologists are warning people in Fredericton that a blue-green algae bloom may be behind the sudden deaths of three dogs that died after swimming in the St. John River.

New Brunswick’s provincial veterinarian, Dr. Jim Goltz said it isn’t confirmed, but he suspects toxins from blue-green algae are the cause of death.

The article states that “New Brunswick isn’t the only province contending with the potentially deadly microbe. At least 246 Canadian bodies of water have been shown to have high concentrations of blue-green algae at various times in the last 15 years.”

Blue-green algae is a bacteria (scientific name: Cyanobacteria) that can produce toxins harmful to people and animals. It typically grows rapidly in areas where there is an abundance of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen.

Diane Orihel, a freshwater ecologist who teaches at Queen’s University, said that “under the right conditions, the bacteria increase in number and form blooms — a soup-like layer on the water’s surface that can actually be seen from space.”

In Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada’s Water Crisis, Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow writes about the urgent need for stronger rules and standards around how we grow food.  “Factory farms are largely unregulated and are creating huge water pollutions,” she writes.

“Government policy must assist local, sustainable family farms growing food for local consumption, rather than ever-bigger corporate agribusiness growing food largely for export. The impact on water of export-oriented food production must become a factor in government policy, and local waters must be protected from the overuse of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.”