Blue-Green Algae Bloom Detected In Thames River

The Thames River is noticeably green at the Parry Bridge on Keil Dr. in Chatham. August 30, 2017. (Photo by Matt Weverink)

If you’ve noticed the water in the Thames River in Chatham looks a little more green than normal, you’re not alone.

Officials with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority say they noticed it as well and sent some samples away to their labs where it was confirmed that there is a blue-green algae bloom in the area in and around the city of Chatham.

LTVCA Resource Technician Valerie Towsley says the bacteria doesn’t always produce dangerous toxins, so officials aren’t seeing any fish die-offs yet.

However, Towsley says residents should stay out of the water as a precaution and prevent their pets from drinking it.

“Typically the Thames River is not really a bathing hotspot, so there’s not too much concern as far as people swimming in the river,” says Towsley. “It’s more for people who let their pets go down to the river to drink.”

It’s not clear how long the bloom will last before it dissipates, but it does seem to be contained to just one area right now.

“It seems to be pretty much contained to the area slightly up-stream and slightly down-stream from the urban centre of the city of Chatham,” says Towsley. “Chatham is kind of that transition spot between the flows from the upper reaches… and we have the backwater effect from Lake St. Clair, so maybe it’s just the meeting of the middles… it’s really not known.”

Towsley says conservation officials aren’t sure exactly what triggered this particular bloom.

“It could’ve been the extensive heat that we had through the end of July and into August,” says Towsley. “Unfortunately, maybe with us feeding it a little bit too much phosphorus and nitrogen, it has helped it survive a lot better than it would in a normal, natural state.”

Towsley says the LTVCA has sent off another sample to labs at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, adding they have been in contact with the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit as well, so local public health officials are also aware of the situation.