By Steve Hubrecht
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A local resident is raising concern about some strange reddish-brown scum found floating in Lake Lillian a few weeks ago.

Toby Benches resident Norman Hendricks noticed the scum in an ice fishing hole on the lake in late March and snapped a few photos (shown to the right).

Curious and potentially concerned that it may be an algal bloom, Hendricks reached out, with help from a local nonprofit, to a water quality scientist. The scientist wrote back (a response which Hendricks shared with the Pioneer), saying it could indeed be an algal bloom, but adding, however, “that is just a guess without having any knowledge of the lake or seeing the water.”

The biologist noted that it seemed similar in several respects to a report in spring 2019 from two lakes in Minnesota – Upper Prior Lake and Spring Lake — that had a worrying and novel amount of brown scum as ice out began and even well after ice out finished. In that case, scientists figured out that the brown scum was likely a species of algae in the melosira genus. This algae is common in many lakes and rivers across the continent in spring, but not usually in concentrations large enough to make these water bodies visibly brown (as it did in Minnesota).

“Melosira varians is a common freshwater diatom that occurs in naturally eutrophic and polluted streams and lakes; it is considered an indicator of organic pollution… Of course, you can’t say for sure without having a taxonomist confirm through proper analysis but I think this is a good guess,” wrote the biologist.

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok told the Pioneer that constituents have brought the issue to his attention, and explained that he reached out to relevant provincial officials to find out when a water quality study was last done on Lake Lillian.

“Nobody had an answer for that. From what I understand, they’re going to follow up and try to get that to me,” said Clovechok. “Water quality is a big issue for me.”

Hendricks, for his part, when he talked with the Pioneer, questioned whether the dramatic increase in the number of people using Lake Lillian has had an effect, pointing to the rather old outhouses by the lakeshore, and wondering if that might be a contributing factor.

“There’s also many people walking their dogs on the lake in the winter, and quite a lot of them don’t seem to pick up the dog poo their pets leave on the ice. So maybe, over time, that could be doing something,” said Hendricks.

“Personally I do think those toilets are a bit too close to the lake,” said Clovechok, but quickly added that Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. plans to replace them with modern, more environmentally responsible toilets as soon as possible (see Lake Lillian parking lot story).