Ahead of the August long weekend, Alberta Health Services issued a blue-green algae advisory for a central Alberta provincial park, but the whole lake is not under the advisory.

The discrepancy had many visitors to the lake's popular beaches perplexed.

"It's kind of confusing in a way," Jeff Cooper said.

The Cooper family visited the beach at Pigeon Lake Provincial Park over the weekend, and while some were going in the water; the Cooper's heeded the warning and stayed dry.

"Since I've been here I haven't seen anything green, it's tough to tell the kids."

The family is following a blue-green algae advisory sent out before the August long weekend for the Silver Beach and Pigeon Lake Provincial Park.

In a press release, AHS warned the blue-green algae produces a toxin that can cause serious illness to humans and animals that drink or come in contact with it.

Some domestic animals such as livestock and dogs have died after drinking water contaminated with the toxin, though no deaths have been recorded in humans.

Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning include:

  • Fever
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen Lips

The symptoms often clear up after two or three days.

"We do recommend that people stay away from the water," Digby Horne, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said in a phone interview.

A side-by-side comparison of water in the provincial park and water near other beaches on the lake reveals the source of confusion.

The water at Pigeon Lake Provincial Park appears clear, while waves lapping the shore at Ma-Me-O Beach are murky with algae blooms.

Horne said an AHS official visited the area Saturday, and officials are observing the water.

"[They are taking] samples for the toxin," Horne said. "But those aren't real-time, they take time to come back."

Officials said nutrient loading of the lake with fertilizers and other chemicals is causing the blooms, along with sunlight and favourable temperatures.

AHS is asking anyone planning to spend time around water where a blue-green algae bloom is present to take the following precautions:

  • Not drink, or allow pets to drink water in affected lakes
  • Not consume fish from a lake where a bloom is present
  • Not swim or wade or allow pets to swim in water containing visible blooms
  • Avoid contact with algae dried on shorelines

Most algae blooms are short-lived, and should clear up after several days.

For more information, call HealthLINK Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).

With files from Kevin Armstrong