Toxic blue green algae blooms are appearing on Lake Winnipeg beaches earlier than normal, as the deadline looms for the City of Winnipeg to come up with a plan to tackle the excessive amount of phosphorus it's pumping into the lake each day. Some residents who live along the lake's shorelines say the bright green goo — which grows because of an excessive amount of phosphorus in the water — is the worst they've seen.
The taps to Winnipeg's drinking water were first turned on in April 1919, but as the city celebrated its engineering feat and raised glasses of that clear liquid, another community's fortunes suddenly turned dark. Construction of a new aqueduct plunged Shoal Lake 40 into a forced isolation that it is only now emerging from, 100 years after Winnipeg's politicians locked their sights on the water that cradles the First Nation at the Manitoba–Ontario border. "The price that our community has paid for one community to benefit from that resource, it's just mind-boggling," said Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky.
Over a thousand people poured into the streets of downtown Winnipeg Friday to bring attention to the dozens of First Nations across Canada currently under boil water advisories. Roughly 1,100 people, including more than 800 students from the Seven Oaks School Division, took part, organizers estimate. Carrying signs, the demonstrators walked from city hall down Main Street to Portage Avenue, and then up Memorial Boulevard, before ending at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
A larval-stage zebra mussel has been found in water from Ontario's Shoal Lake, which is connected to Lake of the Woods and is the source of Winnipeg's drinking water. A single intact veliger, the microscopic larva of a zebra mussel, was found in one of six water samples taken from the lake, according to a news release issued jointly on Monday by the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.
As Calgary dealt with a particularly frigid winter and a series of stubbornly frozen water lines, it turned for advice to a place that's used to dealing with such things.
"Winnipeg has probably a lot more expertise in this area than we do, because it's something they experience fairly routinely," said Chris Huston, the manager of drinking water distribution with the City of Calgary.
There were nearly 300 cases of frozen water-service lines this winter in Calgary, Huston said, and dozens remain frozen even now, despite the arrival of spring.
There is also concern the changes that were made that allowed some of the advisories to be lifted were just temporary fixes. There are long-term, structural problems with the water treatment systems in many Indigenous communities that have not been addressed. Many of these places lack the proper equipment needed to remedy the operational issues with which they are confronted.