Ajax’s longstanding algae problem may be a thing of the past in the near future. Cladophora is the type of algae that plagues the town’s shoreline from the middle to end of summer.
Excessive algae has been washing up on Ajax’s shoreline in nuisance proportions since the late 1980’s, causing a foul odour and leaving parts of the beach unswimmable.
Dr. Martin Auer, a scientist who has researched algae in the Great Lakes since 1979, spoke with his team to Ajax residents during a meeting at Ajax Town Hall regarding the issue on Jan. 13.
There were four potential sources that Dr. Auer and his team explored; exchange with offshore waters, exchange through longshore transport, recycling by mussels and discharges from tributaries or point sources.
Dr. Auer and his team’s research concluded that the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP)’s deposit of phosphorous into Lake Ontario is in fact the main contributing factor behind the nuisance algae.
“Nothing happens if people don’t care,” said Dr. Auer, commending the residents in attendance for their concern.
Gerhard Steiner, who has lived on Cadby Road adjacent to Lake Ontario for 14-years was in attendance for the open house.
“Two days after we moved in the stench was unbelievable,” said Steiner.
Steiner had not been made aware of the algae problem before moving in.
“It comes for a couple of days then it goes away, but when it comes it’s bad,” he said.
After Dr. Auer’s team completed its report, which included in-field and laboratory measurements conducted at the lake, they were able to pinpoint the problem to the discharge of phosphorous in the sensitive region by the shoreline.
“It came back because there is a lot more area out in the lake today where light gets all the way to the bottom where this algae grows and that means if we put phosphorous in the water, there’s a lot more acres of real-estate that’s growing cladophora out there,” said Dr. Auer.
Duffin Creek WPCP is currently operating within its limits, Dr. Auer pointed out.
After their conclusion, the team was able to hypothesize potential solutions to the problem.
Realizing the phosphorous is at a high number in the shoreline’s sensitive region, the WPCP has a few options with room to figure out the most cost efficient, according to Dr. Auer and team. It can extend the pipeline further out in to the lake to avoid the sensitive area, or it can treat the waste more thoroughly to deposit a lower level of phosphorous in the sensitive area. It also has the opportunity to find a common, efficient ground between extending the pipeline and treating waste more thoroughly.
Although since the WPCP is operating within its limits, they do not have to do anything until the province forces them to, according to Rachael Wraith, senior communications officer at Town of Ajax.