The Northwestern Health Unit and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks are working together to test four lakes in northwestern Ontario for toxic blue-green algae.

Residents are asked to avoid Pelican Lake, Abram Lake and Minnitaki Lake near Sioux Lookout, as well as Wabigoon Lake in Dryden near the Eagle’s Landing Golf Course for the time being, and are asked to treat the algae as if it is toxic.

Blue-green algae is created through phosphorus in the lakes, and blue-green algae typically blooms in the summer and fall in shallow, slow-moving and warm water.

After swimming in lakes with toxic-blue green algae, humans and pets may experience stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea and skin rashes, and nerve and liver damage has been reported following long-term exposure.

As it stands, residents are asked to not drink the water or use it for household use, and avoid swimming in the water. If contact does occur, wash the area with soap and water or rinse with clean water to remove the algae.

Municipal water treatment systems are able to remove blue-green algae, but residential systems may not remove the same toxins. As well, boiling the water will not remove toxins, it will actually increase the amount of them.

Residents are asked to avoid the lakes for a minimum of two weeks after the algae bloom has disappeared before using water or drinking from the lake.

If you spot a blue-green algae bloom, you are asked to report it to the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.