‘Brown bloom’ coming down the Thames River

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A “brown bloom” of algae covers the surface of the Thames River from Kent Bridge, as seen in this image, through to Bloomfield Road in Chatham. (Image courtesy Daniel Bittman of the LTVCA)

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

There’s a new type of algae creeping down the Thames River.

The “brown bloom,” which resembles an oil slick, currently reaches from Kent Bridge to an area of the river near Bloomfield Road in Chatham.

According to Daniel Bittman, a watershed technician with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, officials are investigating, and samples have been sent off to the University of Windsor and a private laboratory in Ohio.

However, Bittman said it will likely take a minimum of two weeks to get results.

The good news, he added, is that no fish kills have been reported.

Bittman said the authority has been getting a lot of calls about the streaky looking algae, with many believing a substance has been spilled in the water.

Blue-green algae blooms are not unusual in the summer months and usually dissipate when it rains. The blooms are caused by excessive amounts of phosphorus or nitrogen, from farm field runoff or septic systems.

The brown bloom is a first for Chatham-Kent, according to Randall Van Wagner, manager of conservation lands and services for the authority.

“It’s not your typical algae bloom,” Van Wagner said, adding blue-green algae usually occurs in the summer, forming a mat of growth on the water’s surface. The blooms, detrimental to the river’s plant and animal life, consume oxygen when they break down.

Officials are advising residents to keep their pets out of the water and to avoid swimming.

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