Environmentalism is a quality and a commitment that many of us share. We have all heard the expression "think globally, act locally." When it comes to toxic blue algae — which can cause liver damage and hemorrhaging — it is time to act locally.
Of all the provinces, Manitoba’s lakes have the highest level of potent liver toxins called microcystins, which are produced by algae. Microcystins are found in lakes which have algal blooms — including the manmade lakes in our city like the one on the corner of Scurfield Boulevard and Columbia Drive. Algal blooms pop up and thrive on sewage and fertilizer run-off in our lakes. They are toxic to us, our children, our pets and wildlife.
When a toxin like microcystin gets into the food chain, the long-term damages can be significant: microcystin is being linked to cancer. Before I was a federal MP and now provincial MLA, I worked as an oncologist, treating cancer in children. When children come in contact with toxic algae — walking with their families near our urban lakes or swimming in Lake Winnipeg and other lakes — they are risking their health.
On Aug. 14, I hosted a media conference at the Scurfield Boulevard urban lake to release the findings of a scientific paper co-authored by Diane Orhihel. According to the paper, which was co-authored by 16 scientists:
• Lakes in southern and southwestern Manitoba have among the highest concentrations of microcystin of any lakes in Canada
• Lake Winnipeg and Killarney Lake are in the greatest danger
I asked Premier Selinger during the spring question period why he has allowed, in the NDP’s 12 years of power, the City of Winnipeg to continue dumping large amounts of phosphorus into Lake Winnipeg, but not admit that the NDP’s legislation is not doing enough for the environment. In the next question period session, expected in November, I will also ask the premier why there has been no public reporting of microcystin levels in our urban lakes.
Keeping our all of our lakes healthy requires "action" research to ensure we can reduce algal blooms and microcystin levels in all of our lakes. Researchers need the opportunity to determine what works best to reduce microcystin production under local conditions found in our lakes. They need an understanding of the basic processes which contribute to algal blooms and to microcystin production.
If you would like to be involved in helping our lakes be healthy, there are a number of things you can do:
• Sign the Save the Experimental Lakes Area petition. Copies are available at my office in Room 167 in the Manitoba Legislative Building or at http://saveela.org/public-petition/
• Attend a Save Our Lakes forum I will be hosting at Crescentwood Community Centre this November
• Write to the provincial NDP government or federal Conservative government and ask them to take immediate action to minimize the hazardous toxins found in our lakes
Environmental hazards can pose a severe threat to the health of all people and wildlife across the province. Let’s "act locally" to stop the green sludge we see far too often on the shores of our urban lakes and beyond.
Dr. Jon Gerrard is the Manitoba Liberal Party leader and MLA for River Heights.
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