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Blue-green algae bloom in Jackfish Lake
Resident says the reddish substance looks like flesh

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Daniel Lafond scooped up bagfuls of reddish material from the surface of Jackfish Lake as the ice melted. The 53-year-old who has lived in the city all his life said he has never seen the strange material before.

NNSL photo/graphic

Daniel Lafond with a tub of algae. - Evan Kiyoshi French/NNSL photo

He said when he went out on his boat to collect a sample he was disturbed by what he was looking at.

"It looks like flesh," he said, while holding a tub of the ooze behind the trunk of his car last week. "I have never seen it before."

He noticed the red patches as the ice was beginning to melt. He said once it had melted, the substance was easier to get a look at.

"My friends who have also lived here all their lives have said they've never seen anything like it either," he said. "I know it's a living organism, whatever it is."

According to Judy McLinton, spokesperson for the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), the pink goo isn't new to the lake. In an e-mail, she stated that lab analysis carried out last year found that it is blue-green algae.

Yellowknifer first reported the phenomenon in May 2013.

"The ENR monitors this every year," she wrote.

"There are several possibilities why the bloom may be more prevalent in the last few years, including a possible increase in the input of nutrients to the lake, possibly due to surrounding land use ... or an increase in water temperature due to the use of water from the lake as a coolant for NTPC diesel generators.

McLinton did not respond to why the blue-green algae would be appearing as a reddish colour or whether it is harmful.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can produce a number of toxins and several cases of human poisoning have been recorded.

An accurate assessment of risk is challenging since it is not known when or why the bacteria produces toxins. Studies suggest high exposure to some cyanobacteria can cause amytrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Lafond said he hasn't noticed any health complications since he began handling the material last week.

He said he isn't worried for his health, but won't be getting too close to the algae anymore.

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