What are we willing to do to save a lake?

It was both sad and disturbing to report last week that algae in Quamichan Lake may have killed as many as four dogs.

It was both sad and disturbing to report last week that algae in Quamichan Lake may have killed as many as four dogs.

We imagine pet owners around the lake will be taking care to keep their furry friends away from the water’s edge, as suggested by both common sense and Dr. Paul Hasselback of Island Health.

Importantly, Hasselback also warned that people should avoid contact with the lake water, as there are dangers to human health associated with the algae in question.

Two lakes in the Capital Regional District that have tested positive for toxic algae as well, and warnings include that ingesting the water can cause headaches and abdominal pain in humans, and can lead to lethal liver damage in animals.

So it really can make you sick. It makes us wonder as well how many cats may have been adversely affected, as, even more than most dogs, they wander and drink at will.

Or what about the deer, for that matter?

The lake is home to stickleback, rainbow and cutthroat trout, brown cat-fish, a variety of frogs, mink, otter, beaver, trumpeter swans, heron, eagles, and osprey.

While it’s shocking that Quamichan Lake has gotten to the point where its water is actually a health hazard, it certainly hasn’t happened overnight. In many ways, this was entirely predictable.

For years we have know that Quamichan Lake’s health is getting worse and worse.

In fact, an entire group exists because of that very problem: the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society.

While they’ve done admirable work over the years, clearly it hasn’t been enough to reverse the damage.

We tend to think that water pollution on this level, where it has become unsafe for human and animal contact, is something we would only see in some other, less progressive country than Canada.

Here is what Roger Hart of the Quamichan Stewards said back in 2008: “We have a eutrophic (nutrient rich) lake because in the past we didn’t strike the right balance between development and maintaining a healthy watershed. While we believe that we will successfully restore Quamichan Lake to a point where children will once again safely swim in the water, we need to learn from our mistakes and ensure that our future development enhances our quality of life.”

Losing the lake is not an option we’re willing to consider. Are you? So what are we going to do about it?