2010 GEIGER Report

The Mandate

In 2010, the  "Groupe d’études interdisciplinaires en géographie et environnement regional (GEIGER, which in English means "Interdisciplinary Group of Regional Environmental and Geographic Studies") was tasked by the Association  to update the "Detailed Technical Description of the Blue Sea Lake and Blue Sea Stream Watersheds" produced in 2000. The report was submitted to Administrative Council in April 2011.  On the 21st of that month, the mayors of Blue Sea and Messines were briefed on its contents and recommendations.  Subsequent to that briefing, the Administrative Council conducted a comprehensive review of the report, the results of which are detailed below (see “Administrative Council Follow-up Action”).

The Report

The full 2010 report (available in French only) in a PDF format (3.7 MB) can be downloaded by clicking here.

A translation of the introduction, conclusions and recommendations can be downloaded by clicking here.

Summary

In Spring 2010, the Blue Sea Lake Watershed Association - with funding from the Municipalities of Blue Sea and Messines - asked the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) to update the technical description of the Blue Sea Lake and Blue Sea Stream watersheds and determine the principal environmental pressures on the lake so that the association and the municipalities could decide how best to expend their limited resources to improve the state of the watershed.  Using the UQAM-produced 2000 GEIGER Report as a starting point, the UQAM team employed a wide variety of data sources and analytical tools to conduct its study.  Based on an exhaustive review of the data collected, the team concluded that:

  • the overall state of the lake remains oligotrophic (ie, the water is clear and has a relatively low level of plant nutrients);
  • the concentration of phosphorus in the lake has remained stable over the past decade;
  • although the majority of the shoreline is inhabited, most of it is covered by natural and/or ornamental vegetation.  As a result the lake’s shoreline is in good condition while that of the islands is in excellent condition;
  • there was no sign of blue-green algae in the lake in 2010; however, Eurasian milfoil (an invasive aquatic plant) is found in many locations around the lake;
  • land use in the area has remained relatively stable over the past decade with a small decrease in cultivated land offset by an increase in forest or fallow land;
  • the local population is aging, and the number of permanent residents has increased as retirees convert their cottages to homes;
  • septic tanks remain the largest human source of phosphorus entering the watershed.  However, due to a combination of factors including improved management of these tanks, a reduction in residential/cottager phosphate use, and  the conversion of some area farm land to forest or fallow land, the concentration of phosphorus in the lake has  remained stable;
  • the positive comments regarding septic tank management notwithstanding, there are some gaps in the municipal records as to the age and condition of these tanks;
  • even relatively limited residential development could lead to a small, but not insignificant, increase in phosphorus concentrations in the lake.
  • the overall state of Lac Laverdure, a small lake in the north end of the watershed, is mesotrophic, with an average phosphorus concentration much higher than that in Blue Sea (ie, 17.6 µg/l vice 6.5 µg/l).  Given the small number of cottages on the lake and the absence of farming in the local area, the principal human source of the lake’s phosphorus is likely the nearby golf course. 

Based on these conclusions, the 2010 GEIGER Report recommends that:

  • because the number of permanent residents will likely continue to grow - which could lead to a harmful increase in phosphorus concentrations in the lake - cottagers and residents alike must improve their environmental stewardship by using phosphate free products, by maintaining their septic systems in excellent condition, by not using fertilizers,  by revegetating the shoreline, by ensuring that ashes from bonfires don’t get carried into the lake, etc.;
  • the association should support this effort by conducting a comprehensive awareness/ support program dealing with “phosphate reduction”, Eurasian milfoil control, revegetation of the shore area etc... while recording and promulgating the results of its annual transparency and biannual water tests;
  • to assist in tracking and managing the environmental pressures on the watershed, the municipalities should maintain accurate records on the condition and age of septic tanks; exercise tight quality control on septic systems; track changes in land use via data provided by the regional office of the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food);  closely monitor residential development, farming activities and shoreline usage/revegetation; and track, analyze, and publicize the water quality data of the waterways in their jurisdictions; and
  • to improve the water quality in Lac Laverdure, discussions should be held with the owner of the local golf course to find ways to reduce the concentration of phosphorus in that lake (eg, by establishing a buffer strip between the golf course and the Laverdure Stream and/or by limiting the use of fertilizers on the course).

Administrative Council Follow-up Action

After a lengthy discussion of the 2010 GEIGER Report, the Administrative Council agreed to take the following action in response to the report’s recommendations:

  • initiate a comprehensive program to educate both residents and cottagers regarding watershed-related environmental best practices.  This program will include: posting the appropriate information on the Association’s website; distributing information pamphlets as part of an annual membership renewal/recruitment campaign; issuing educational newsletters both by email and regular mail; using the local media to communicate the Association’s message, and sponsoring - in partnership with other associations - socio-cultural activities that promote watershed environmental awareness;
  • address the Eurasian milfoil problem by: researching possible countermeasures, supporting the implementation of those that are practical/feasible, and highlighting  this issue in the above-noted educational campaign.
  • continue monitoring the health of the watershed by conducting annual transparency tests and biannual water sampling in Blue Sea Lake and by encouraging/supporting the residents of other watershed lakes to do likewise;
  • promulgate the results of the aforementioned testing to watershed residents and the municipalities via the Association’s website, an annual newsletter/information pamphlet, and the local media;
  • ensure that the municipalities conduct the inspections and maintain the data and records recommended by the 2010 GEIGER Report (ie: re septic systems, land use and development, farming activities, shoreline revegetation, and water quality) by obtaining an annual report from each municipality on these inspections, data and records.
  • support the improvement of Lac Laverdure’s water quality by recommending to the Municipality of Messines that that municipality hire a consultant to confirm the source of the lake’s water quality problem and recommend ways to reverse the lake’s deterioration.  

Questions or Comments

Please do not hesitate to forward any questions or comments, particularly with respect to the conclusions and recommendations of the study; our contact page provides a convenient way of doing so.

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