Is it safe to swim in that cool, refreshing lake?

On hot and sunny days, spending time at the beach with a refreshing swim is the perfect activity. But before you jump in for a dip, take a few minutes to learn about the quality of the water.

In some lakes, small organisms called cyanobacteria can lead to health problems. Cyanobacteria are often called blue-green algae. When they multiply very quickly, they form what are called blooms, sometimes referred to as cyanobacteria blooms or harmful algal blooms.

These blooms are a public health concern.

You can be exposed to cyanobacteria or their toxins when you’re swimming, kayaking, canoeing or windsurfing. Any water activity that leads you to suddenly or repeatedly put your head under water may lead to ingestion or inhalation of the harmful bloom material.

If this happens, you may get sick to your stomach or feel like you have the flu. If you ingest enough harmful bloom material, it can lead to even more serious illnesses. If your skin touches the material, you may experience skin irritation.

Are you wondering what a cyanobacteria bloom looks like? Cyanobacteria bloom characteristics include:

  • Discoloured water, with many small particles, or foam, scum or mats on the surface.
  • Blooms can be blue, bright green, brown or red.
  • They may look like floating paint or grass clippings.
  • The water may smell bad.

Be sure to stay protected by following these steps:

  • Look for posted warning signs at the beach and follow any instructions.
  • Don’t swim or engage in recreational activities like water skiing, windsurfing or kayaking where a bloom is present.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play in or drink water that has a bloom present.
  • If you aren’t sure if there are cyanobacteria blooms to be concerned about, stay out of the water.

You can have a fun day at the beach and on the water, while staying safe.

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