Several dogs, including this one, died last year, from, it is suspected, ingesting algae from Quamichan Lake. (file)

Several dogs, including this one, died last year, from, it is suspected, ingesting algae from Quamichan Lake. (file)

Just add barley? Group looks for Quamichan toxic algae fix

Adding barley to Quamichan Lake is one of six possible solutions

Adding barley to Quamichan Lake is one of six possible solutions that has been identified to deal with the build up of blue-green algae in the water.

Jon Lefebure, chairman of the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force, said 16 water-improvement remedies for the lake had been suggested at the task force’s meeting on March 15, and six were selected for further investigation.

He said barley is known to create ideal environments for the growth of bacteria that consumes phosphorus from which blue algae grows.

“Skimming the blue algae off the top of the water is another option that will be investigated further,” he said.

“The 10 ideas that were rejected were considered impractical. One was to dredge the lake, but we considered it too expensive an option. We expect to make a final decision in the next month or two.”

The task force was established by the Municipality of North Cowichan last fall to study and seek solutions to the ongoing health issues related to blue-green algae in Quamichan Lake.

The decision was made after the death of at least four dogs which are all suspected to be caused by ingesting the algae from the lake.

BC Aquifer, which does water inspections and tests around the province, did tests and confirmed that the water in Quamichan Lake is heavy in cyanotoxins.

As suspected, the toxins are produced by blue-green algae, and if produced in enough concentrations, can have significant health impacts on animals and humans.

It’s widely believed that the farms and housing developments adjacent to the lake have contributed greatly to the problem.

North Cowichan had posted signs around Quamichan Lake warning people about the issue and advising them to keep themselves and their animals away from the water until the problem is solved.

Lefebure said no decision to make requests to the province for financial and/or technical help will be made until the task force has completed its research.

“The province does have some responsibilities here too, so we will likely be looking for the government to provide some leadership and funding in helping to deal with this issue,” he said.