Six Halifax-area lakes under blue-green algae advisory

When Alexandra Knowles picked up her nine-year-old daughter, Ellie, after a morning paddle last Friday on Lake Thomas, she soon learned something was wrong.

"When I picked her up, there were a lot of her cohorts calling their homes to have a pickup, because they were covered in little bite-like marks, and they were itching," she says.

The itchy welts got worse, and Knowles took Ellie to the hospital to get medication on Monday.

She suspected blue-green algae because the province had issued a tweet Friday afternoon warning of a blue-green algae bloom in the Lake Thomas area.

"That's something that you want to have medical care for immediately," she says.

Ellie had been paddling with the Cheema Aquatic Club that Friday morning.

"When we first saw the Tweet late Friday evening, we immediately halted all our on water activities," says the club's Commodore, Nadine Lamontagne.

It wasn't until Wednesday morning that the Department of Environment expanded the advisory to encompass half a dozen bodies of water along the Shubenacadie canal- including Grand Lake, Fletchers Lake, Lake Thomas, Lake William, Lake Charles, and Lake Micmac.

Lamontagne says provincial officials told her paddling is allowed, as long as paddlers and their gear are thoroughly rinsed.

"We are putting in place the venue that we need so that people can do that on site here and not leave the site without washing down themselves, the boats, and the paddles that they've used," Lamontagne says.

That means the club's after school paddling programming will continue as scheduled next week.

But for anyone in the area who was looking to cool off today, there was disappointment.

"We were on our way to have a swim today," says Darlene Styles, with three children and a dog in tow at Gordon R. Snow Community Centre Park in Fall River.

The park has a beach – on the shores of Lake Thomas. Once Styles learned of the blue-green algae advisory, she and the kids decided to take a shady walk in the park instead.

"And we're happy that (the dog) Rudy didn't go in the water because it's very bad for puppies, right," she adds.

When it comes to notifying the public about blue-green algae, some affected by the advisory say the province needs to go beyond social media.

Lamontagne says she came upon the Department of Environment's first tweet quite by accident on Friday evening.

"Even some of our coaches here are not on Twitter and other platforms," she says, "so it wasn't an ideal way for the information to be disseminated."

The solitary notice on social media – followed by an official advisory notice five days later – is in sharp contrast to the emergency alert that was sent out in July about a blue-green algae bloom in Nova Scotia's Grand Lake, after a woman became ill and two dogs died.

No one from the department of environment was available for an interview Wednesday.

There are more than twenty bodies of water in Nova Scotia under provincial blue-green algae advisories this summer.

Once a provincial advisory is issued, it stays in place for the remainder of the season.