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Blue Green algae a problem for Lake Bernard

One issue that has plagued the lake in recent years is Blue Green Algae Blooms. Phosphorus contributes to the formation of the blooms and the more phosphorus there is in water the more likely it will spawn blooms
Lake Bernard is home to about 300 property owners.

The Lake Bernard Property Owners Association (LBPOA) wants to ensure the health of the lake for generations to come.

To that end, it's asking the Village of Sundridge, the Township of Strong, and the Township of Joly for $8,343 to help pay for laboratory analysis of water samples the LBPOA plans to take this year.

The samples will help determine if the lake water contains threatening substances and to what degree.

The lake is home to about 300 property owners.

At a tri-council meeting of Sundridge, Strong and Joly, lake health committee member Bob Renaud said “The health of the lake is essential to the success of our region”.

“If we don't have a healthy lake it's not going to be good,” Renaud told the Tri-council.

Lake Bernard is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world without an island and hosts numerous recreational activities like sailing, canoeing, swimming and fishing which includes ice fishing. Lake Bernard is one of the few Lake Trout lakes in the Almaguin Highlands and it's also home to Lake Whitefish and the LBPOA says the fish population is a big driver for anglers in the winter.

The LBPOA has two scientists on its lake health team, Alan Burt and Dale Klodnicki and it was Klodnicki who mostly addressed the Tri-council. He told the elected officials the LBPOA needs information to confirm the existing condition of the lake and what are the potential threats it faces. The LBPOA only has a budget of $1,000 and that's why it turned to the three municipalities to help with water testing analysis.

“We've identified a number of threats to our lake health and we need to understand those (threats),” but $1,000 doesn't go very far and we need support,” Klodnicki said.

Klodnicki says knowing what the threats are allows the LBPOA to make informed decisions on how to deal with them.

One issue that has plagued the lake in recent years is Blue Green Algae blooms. Phosphorus contributes to the formation of the blooms and the more phosphorus there is in water the more likely it will spawn blooms.

Lake Bernard traditionally has had low phosphorus levels but Klodnicki told the three councils that phosphorus concentrations have been increasing over the years and that growth has helped to feed the blooms. One reason for this may be homeowners applying lawn fertilizers too close to the lakeside and some of the fertilizer is running off into the lake.

Klodnicki says the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks tests the lake in the spring. However, Klodnicki says this “is one moment in time” and adds the LBPOA wants to collect year-round water samples “to get a better understanding of what's going on in the lake.” This would include taking samples after major storm events and Klodnicki says this would be done “to see what's going in the lake.”

He says the LBPOA wants to establish a phosphorus monitoring program that includes samples from the lake's near shore and its deeper areas. Klodnicki says the data the monitoring program collects will “pinpoint the areas that are more susceptible to the blooms.”

Not only does the LBPOA want to know how much phosphorus is making its way into the lake, but it also wants to study lake chloride levels.

Klodnicki says the lake health committee has found that groundwater chloride concentrations have increased near the municipalities and it wants to carry out more sampling to find out why this is happening.

In addition to asking the Tri-council for funding, the LBPOA wants the three municipalities to introduce a septic system by-law. Klodnicki said Sundridge has been working on such a by-law and suggested its work in this area can be used as a springboard for a more encompassing by-law.

Sundridge's Deputy Mayor Shawn Jackson, told the LBPOA there was value in its presentation.

Jackson noted some of the information the association provided has been known for years.

“We can do some corrective action right now with the information we have,” Jackson said.

The deputy mayor said two things all three municipalities could do is “limit the use of fertilizer within a certain distance of the lake and also tighten up on septic systems”.

“We should think about getting started on these things but also the information (the LBPOA) will gather will help us,” Jackson said.

The tri-council accepted the LBPOA report and Strong Mayor Tim Bryson told the group the respective councils would be discussing the financial request during their budget talks for this year.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.