Phosphorus and Blue-Green Algae

Let's take the Phosphate-Free pledge. Eliminate unnecessary phosphorus inputs to lakes from fertilizers. Properly maintain septic systems and grow a natural shoreline buffer.

After a second year of blue-green algae blooms in Ramsey Lake (2008 and 2010), there is growing concern about how algae might affect our drinking water and whether we will be able to enjoy Ramsey Lake like we have in the past. Algae produce toxins that have made the lake unsafe for swimming for part of this summer. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for algae growth. Studies have shown that up to 50% of the phosphorus in stormwater runoff is from lawn application of fertilizer and many lawns and streets in Sudbury including 2nd Ave., Bancroft, Kingsway and Paris drain directly and untreated into Ramsey Lake.

Other jurisdictions such as Manitoba, Maine, New York, Florida, Minnesota and New Jersey have had blue-green algae concerns and have been proactive by implementing a restriction on fertilizers that contain phosphorus. This means consumers use fertilizer labeled with a 0 in the middle indicating no phosphorus such as 30-0-10. This fertilizer costs the same as other fertilizers, is readily available in local stores and is usually all that is needed for an established lawn. On April 1, 2012, the City of Greater Sudbury enacted a bylaw to restrict lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. Look for the zero in the middle.

Please use phosphorus-free fertilizer, look for the zero in the middle. Establishing a natural shoreline buffer also prevents pollutants from reaching our drinking water source. Other ways we can prevent phosphorus from entering our watershed include washing our cars at a commercial carwash instead of on our driveways, and if you have a septic system, maintaining your septic systems. Pick up after your dog and don't sweep dirt and grass into sewers.

We all need to play a part in keeping phosphorus levels low around Ramsay Lake so it will be healthy for many years to come. 

              Blue-green algae taken from Ramsey Lake, Sept. 2010

One pound of phosphorus can grow 700 pounds of blue-green algae.

(Beeton, A.M. 1971. Eutrophication of the St.     Lawrence Great Lakes. In: Man's Impact on Environment, T.R. Detwyler (ed.),     McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, pp. 233-245.)

How often do we want to see this sign on Ramsey Lake?