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Red Alert 01/07/2009

A traffic-light warning system has been put in place on information boards around the edge of Llyn Padarn, near Llanberis, as the current blue-green algal bloom worsens. In places the surface of the lake has turned bright green. This week the warning has been at 'red' with the accompanying advice that 'All water activities to be avoided.' The boards are updated daily. On amber (medium risk) it says: 'Non-immersion sports permitted - kayaking, canoeing, sailing. Avoid contact with the water - no swimming or paddling.'

Barry Davies, Gwynedd Council's Maritime and Country Parks officer said: "There is a 40 - 70% chance of the algae being toxic and we urge anyone wanting to take part in activities on Llyn Padarn to check these information boards first."

The Lake is very popular with outdoor centres and adventure activity providers. Not all of them have heeded Gwynedd Council's advice and have made a different risk assessment. However, Surf-Lines based next to the lake has decided to move any canoeing and kayaking sessions that would have taken place on Llyn Padarn to other venues; despite the inconvenience and extra travel costs.

Surf-Lines Director, Nick Cuncliffe, said: "It's not affecting us too badly at the moment but when the summer holidays come round and we run a lot of 2 hour sessions, then it'll be more of an issue." Nick added: "Since this is the first case of such a toxic bloom on Llyn Padarn, then it'd be good to know what has caused it and are there any water quality issues that need addressing? The lake and lagoons draw a lot of visitors to the area so there is bound to be a negative economic impact."

Fish Legal (the legal arm of Angling Trust) has expressed surprise at what it sees as a lack of concern at the severe and potentially toxic algal blooms in Llyn Padarn, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to one of the rarest fish species in Wales, the Arctic charr.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of Fish Legal, clearly feels strongly about the situation and said: “For the Environment Agency to write off toxic algal blooms as a natural phenomenon, particularly when the pollution from the sewage works is being monitored so inadequately, smacks of complacency at best and incompetence at worst. Llyn Padarn is a jewel in the wonderful Welsh landscape and should be treated with kid gloves, not slapdash regulation and monitoring.”

Fish Legal, then the Anglers' Conservation Association, unsuccessfully brought a civil claim against Welsh Water in relation to the nutrient enrichment of the lake back in 1993. Subsequently however, Welsh Water did introduce phosphate-stripping at the Llanberis sewage treatment works and the Environment Agency reduced permitted phosphate discharges into the Afon-y-Bala which flows in to the lake.

The BBC reported the toxic blue-green algal bloom on Llyn Padarn at the end of May when the public were then advised not to participate in immersion sports on the lake. The lake was given the all-clear in the middle of June but warnings were re-instated a week later. Barry Davies said: “It is very likely that there will be further disruption during the summer months as the algae bloom is set to persist in Llyn Padarn possibly until the early autumn.”

If you have been in the water and become unwell, you should seek medical advice immediately by contacting your GP or calling NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47.

More at www.gwynedd.gov.uk and BBC.

Topic: Blue-green Algae, Llyn Padarn, Canoeing and Kayaking in Snowdonia

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