Blue-Green Baloney

In 2012, the Quebec Ministry of the Environment spent $542,063 testing water all over the Province and found blue-green algae in 139 samples (Les Plans d’Eau Touches par une fleur d’Eau d’Algues Bleu-Vert). This sounds worrying, but is actually a normal part of a healthy world. Encyclopedia Britannica says blue-green algae can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat—oceans, fresh water, damp soil, temporarily moistened rocks in deserts, bare rock and soil, and even Antarctic rocks, and the harder you look the more you’ll find.

Blue-green algae are little marvels of nature. To make a living they consume only sunshine, air and water – which they manufacture into the nitrogen plants need to eat, and the oxygen animals need to breathe. Some blue-green algae (also called spirulina) is a traditional food source in parts of Africa and Mexico, and is exceptionally rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. Many people pay good money for spirulina when it’s compressed into pill form and sold at health food stores. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1386455/spirulina)

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The most complete recent study is a 2012 report by the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says “Algae are vitally important to marine and fresh-water ecosystems and … are usually too small to be seen, but sometimes can form visible colonies, called an algal bloom. Blooms can form in shallow, warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients such as fertilizer runoff or septic tank overflows. The blooms … look like paint floating on the water.” According to the EPA they are more likely to be found in warmer southern waters of Florida, and some brackish waters in the Canadian prairies. Transient blooms can also appear in parts of healthy lakes in Springtime when the warm weather drives normal algae to the surface for a dose of sunshine for photosynthesis.

Although algal blooms are usually harmless, they can function as an early warning sign that a lake may be starting to become overgrown. The blooms thrive in warm, shallow, stagnant or slow-moving pools of over-fertilized water. That kind of water is turbid, not clear. If detected, actions can be taken to reduce the fertilizer or sewage that’s feeding the algae. However, we don’t have turbid water in Wentworth. Lake Louisa is clear for 7 metres, which is practically off the charts for water clarity.

Nonetheless, On June 9, 2010, the Wentworth Senior Inspector (the Mayor’s wife), sent us all a letter saying “It is urgent to take concrete measures to prevent the onset of blue-green bacteria in our lakes and watercourses“, and she stressed it is forbidden to touch any vegetation within the first 10-15 metres from the water. That was the letter that essentially laid down the law in Wentworth that you can read about in the article: The no-go don’t-touch zone along lakefront.

HOLIEST OF HOLY SECRETS
In 2008 the NIH published an article called “Human health risk assessment related to cyanotoxins exposure”. This article is important for us in Quebec because it says the blooms “occur especially in eutrophic … waters”. “Eutrophic” is a sacred word in this story. The kind of lake most affected by algae is called “eutrophic”. “Eutrophic” is the Greek word for “well nourished”. Unless a lake is “well nourished” there won’t be significant algal blooms.

There’s an organization called CQDE – Le Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (www.cqde.org). The CQDE, like various other organizations, makes money selling its services to municipalities like Wentworth. It provides lawyers for legal cases against citizens, propagandizes lake associations, and trains Municipal Inspectors how to clamp down the law against you and me. The President, Jean-Francois Girard, also travels around from town-to-town trying to convince us peons that our environment will go down the toilet unless we stop sinning. On August 10, 2013 Wentworth had a so-called “Environment Day” where Mr. Girard gave a powerpoint doom-and-gloom presentation on the catastrophe about to befall us. He said there are 5-6,000 lakes in southern Quebec and 10-15% are eutrophic. Doing the math means there are about 600 eutrophic lakes in Quebec – which would be scary if true.

As it happens, I’d been poking around the Quebec Government website and couldn’t find any eutrophic lakes at all, although they make it hard to research because you have to look up one lake at a time. After Environment Day I sent Mr. Girard an email asking for more information.

ME
I’m trying to study the health of lakes in Quebec. You say 10-15% are eutrophic. Can you tell me where you got this information. (“J’essaie d’étudier sur la santé des lacs au Québec. Vous dites que 10-15% des lacs sont eutrophic. Pouvez-vous s’il vous plaît me référer à la recherche scientifique qui appuie cette conclusion?”)

HIM
No reply.

NEXT
On 28 August, I sent a query directly to the Government asking how many lakes in Quebec are eutrophic according to the latest research. (“Je voudrais savoir combien des lacs au Québec sont eutrophiques, selon les derniers résultats de la recherche qui sont disponibles.”)

THEM
There’s no way to estimate the number of eutrophic lakes in Quebec, but you can look at these links. (“Il n’y a pas de bilan complet qui permettrait d’estimer le nombre de lacs eutrophes au Québec. Je vous invite par contre à consulter le “Portrait de la qualité des eaux de surface au Québec, 1999-2008″ à l’adresse suivante : http://www.mddefp.gouv.qc.ca/eau/portrait/eaux-surface1999-2008/chap3.pdf Vous y trouverez le classement trophique de 537 lacs. Vous pouvez également consulter la page suivante pour obtenir de l’information sur un lac particulier: http://www.mddefp.gouv.qc.ca/eau/rsvl/index.asp)

ME
According to the link, 3% out of 537 lakes are eutrophic. Since I’d imagine you’re studying the most densely populated areas, I guess that means there are only 16 eutrophic lakes in Quebec. Is that right? (“Merci pour les références, que j’ai étudié avec intérêt. Selon l’introduction du Figure 50 dans le premièr lien, 3% des lacs sont eutrophes. Puisque le nombre total des lacs étudiés est de 537, cela semble signifier que 16 lacs ont été trouvés à être eutrophes. Est-ce correct? Aussi, bien que le Québec compte au moins 6,000 lacs, j’imagine que les lacs étudiés dans cette étude sont celles des zones les plus densément peuplées. Est-ce correct?”)

ME
Will you be answering my question? (“Le 30 Août je vous ai envoyé un courriel et je n’arrive pas à trouver une réponse de votre part. Il est possible que vous avez envoyé une réponse et je l’ai perdu. Avez-vous, ou allez-vous, envoyer une réponse?”)

THEM
No reply.

NEXT
I contacted the other main speaker at Wentworth Environment Day, Agnes Grondin, “Biologist” and “Environmental Advisor to the MRC d’Argenteuil”.

ME
Do you know if any lakes in Argenteuil are eutrophic?”

HER
A majority of lakes are oligo-mesotrophic. The scientific information we have on lakes in Argenteuil can be viewed on the site: http://www.mddefp.gouv.qc.ca/eau/rsvl/index.asp”.

ME
I know of this site, and I can’t find any lakes in Argenteuil that are eutrophic, but you are the expert for Argenteuil. Do you know any lakes that are eutrophic?”

HER
I am sorry but a don’t have that kind of information. May I ask why you are interested?

ME
(To myself), WTF

She says she doesn’t have that kind of information?! If not her then who? It’s worth remembering she’s the Argenteuil Environmental Advisor, biologist and paid official expert on Wentworth water quality. Apparently, without even knowing the state of our water, she authored the “Action Plan for the Protection of Argenteuil’s Lakes” that’s been guiding Wentworth policy decisions for the past 5 years.

In other words, at every level of government, from the municipality, to the MRC, to the Ministry in Quebec, bureaucrats are simply making up policies, laws & regulations that are not based on science.

BLUE-GREEN BUREAUCRACY

Not only are Quebec’s lakes an outstanding national treasure, but in Wentworth, within only one hour of Montreal, we are blessed with ultra-healthy lakes. They have none of the risk factors associated with eutrophic lakes. They are headwater lakes, meaning there’s no garbage floating into them from miscreants upstream. There’s no agriculture or industry polluting our lakes. We have spring-fed cold and deep lakes. The land around our lakes is porous, and even after a heavy rainstorm the water just percolates down into the ground. Take a look at any map or aerial photo and you’ll see there’s nothing in Wentworth except for trees and lakes. Try and imagine a more picture-perfect setting and you won’t be able.

In addition, most of our lakes, Louisa and Dunany, have been fully populated for 50 years or more. It’s not as if we suddenly started developing and don’t know what the results will be. In 1965 there were already 450 homes at Louisa, each home had more people than now, and the wives & kids stayed at the lake all summer long. Because of demographics and other reasons we’re quickly de-populating, and there’s even less human impact on the environment than before. We have a long history knowing what our lakes can tolerate, and they are unbelievably robust.

There’s simply no science behind all the rules and regulations spoiling our use of our properties. The only thing eutrophic is the pools of blue-green bureaucrats flowering on our ignorance and passivity. This kind of problem isn’t going to get fixed from the top-down, only from the bottom-up. Think globally, but act locally. That’s what makes these elections so important. (Please vote, by mail, or in the advance poll on Sunday October 27, or at the final poll on Sunday 3 November.)

5 thoughts on “Blue-Green Baloney

  1. Wentworth Gazette

    The Quebec Ministry of the Environment finally answered. Out of some 6,000 lakes in Southern Quebec, 21 have been found to be potentially eutrophic. Out of these 21, five are eutrophic due to a natural heavy load of phosphorous in the rock (see explanation below the eutrophic lake list), and have nothing to do with people. Two or three of the other lakes have conflicting data. The net total is about 15 lakes in Quebec that are probably eutrophic due to human activity. This means that more than 99.75% of lakes in Quebec are not eutrophic. None of the 15 problematic lakes are in Wentworth.

    If anyone has the time and interest, they could check the 15 lakes on a map, and figure out how many are next to agriculture or other kind of industrial over-fertilization. In other words, are there ANY lakes in Quebec that are eutrophic due to normal recreational lakefront development? If you do this job, please post a reply.

    Eutrophic due to human activity, but maybe agriculture-related.
    Saint Augustin
    a la Truite
    Roxton
    Waterloo
    Vaillancourt
    Rose
    Mandevile
    Bill
    Bleu
    Caron
    Brochet
    Algonquin
    Saint-Onge
    Saint-Charles
    a la Peche (maybe, more like intermediate)
    Saint Francois (ditto)
    Petit Lac St-Francois very clear, yet phosphore & algae?

    Eutrophic due to natural heavy load of phosphorous, having nothing to do with human activity!
    Abitibi
    Macamic
    de Montigny
    Noranda
    Pelletier

    “certains lacs de l’ Abitibi-Témiscamingue présentent des concentrations naturellement plus élevées qu’ailleurs sur le bouclier canadien en raison de dépôts glacio-lacustres argileux riches en phosphore”

  2. David Gore

    For anyone who takes the time to read the articles you cited, it is clear that the quotes used are taken out of context; and deliberately misleading. The simplest example would be the most recent reply you posted to your own article. In this, you note 15 lakes of the estimated 6000 are eutrophic, and thus 99.75% are not. Assuming the 6000 is accurate, the 15 eutrophic lakes is out of a sample size, not the whole population. If it is a similar sample to most other lake studies it would be in the 150 range. So therefore 15/150 are eutrophic – that’s 10%.

    If you are going to quote data and claim to have referenced scientific publications, please have the decency to do so accurately and not with a clear agenda.

    On another note why are none of the “journalists” signing their propaganda/articles? Who edits this gazette anyway?

  3. Wentworth Gazette

    Thank you very much for the reply.

    You say, “If it is a similar sample to most other lake studies it would be in the 150 range. So therefore 15/150 are eutrophic – that’s 10%.”

    You haven’t read the article carefully. All the lake-monitoring study data is sent to the Quebec Ministry of the Environment (MDDEFP). The total number of lakes studied in Quebec is 537.

    In addition, those 537 lakes aren’t a random sample of lakes, but the ones that MDDEFP thought most likely to be affected by human activity. The vast majority of the 6,000 lakes in southern Quebec aren’t inhabited and aren’t subject to anthropogenic eutrophication. Out of 6,000 lakes in Southern Quebec, Lake Monitoring Associations and MDDEFP only managed to find 15 eutrophic lakes, and who knows how many of even those 15 drain agricultural land or have natural heavy load of phosphorous.

    Thanks again for writing and trying to contend with the facts. The scientific information takes time to digest, since it flies in the face of the scare tactics used by bureaucrats and certain organizations whose power and income depends on making us afraid.

    As to the last part of your letter, please see the ABOUT page.

  4. David Gore

    So if I understand correctly, the sample is not random, and therefore we should not draw conclusions across the full population. Meaning the 99.75% was not based in science, but rather your opinion. In addition, if we were to assume a random sample and draw conclusions across the population as you have done, it should have been based on the 537 sample size and not the 6000 lakes; and thus the correct interpretation for the percentage of eutrophic lakes would have been more than 10x larger than you conclusion.

    In addition, you quote “Aucun plan d’eau n’a fait l’objet d’un avis de non-consommation d’eau potable.” You conclude that this means “we can safely DRINK the water in ALL our lakes.” However, the study of the “eau potable” within the MDDEP 2012 report is referring to 17 stations where municipal drinking water is gathered. In fact, there were 21 samples from water that were over the 1.5 micrograms/litre (potable water limit), and 10 of these were over the 16 microgram/litre (recreation use water limit). These resulted in 7 public health advisories and 2 beach closures! So the conclusion that you can drink the water in all our lakes is erroneous.

  5. Wentworth Gazette

    Thanks for writing.

    In response to your 2nd paragraph 1st, you are correct. Thanks for looking into the research.

    As to the 1st paragraph, the numbers you want are in the original article. Here’s the quote: “According to the link, 3% out of 537 lakes are eutrophic.” (This is the factor of 10 you mention.) The article then goes on to say: “I’d imagine you’re studying the most densely populated areas …” MDDEFP didn’t respond to this query, and that’s why the 16 got extrapolated over 6,000 (the number given by the Environment Day lawyer) instead of 537. There are actually over half a million lakes in Quebec, so there would have been some justification in ramping it up another factor of 10.

    You may want to know what has subsequently been found out about our eutrophic lakes. Approximately 21 lakes in Quebec have been found to be eutrophic. Five of them are due to geology and not people. Of the remaining 16, 12 drain agricultural land. That leaves no more than 4 lakes that have been found to be eutrophic due to the bad behaviour of cottagers. This number should be contrasted with the approximately 600 the Environment Day lawyer was claiming.

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