Saanich’s Elk and Beaver lakes have long been plagued by a blueish-green goop on the surface of the water but the province is hopeful a $750,000 investment will help ensure park users can again splash safely.
During the snap election in October 2020, south Island candidates said a re-elected NDP government would contribute to the purchase of an oxygenation system to combat toxic blue-green algae blooms in the lakes.
Both bodies of water are frequently the subject of water quality alerts due to the algae that can produce cyanotoxins that cause health complications for people and can be lethal to dogs. In 2018, the Capital Regional District (CRD) released a report identifying technology to increase oxygen levels in the lakes and reduce the occurrence of toxic blooms.
“These lakes are a part of our community and this effort will help make these waters clean, safe and enjoyable for everyone,” said Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, minister of agriculture, food and fisheries.
She has fond memories of windsurfing on the lakes with her brother as a teen, enjoying days on the dock, attending events in the park and meeting friends and constituents along the trail around the lake.
The water quality worsened over the years and “we knew we had to address this as soon as we could,” Popham told Black Press Media.
The province’s financial contribution will help buy an oxygenator, and the CRD will be responsible for maintaining the system. Colin Plant, CRD board chair and Saanich councillor, said the remediation efforts will be a huge step forward in improving the health of the lakes.
“This, in combination with watershed management, can help protect this ecosystem and ensure it continues to be a beloved recreation spot for generations to come,” he said.
According to the CRD, the technology is expected to be installed by April 1, 2022, and will cost about $1.4 million. Ongoing operational costs range from $100,000 to $150,000 annually.
Popham said once the oxygenator is installed, it will likely take less than a year for the water quality to start improving.
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