The province has confirmed a toxic blue-green algae bloom in Rice Bay on Rainy Lake.

The Northwestern Health Unit and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks began testing a sample of the lake water on August 23, and confirmed that the toxins exceed water standards on August 30.

Residents are asked to avoid the Rainy Lake area for a minimum of two weeks after the algae bloom has disappeared before using water, swimming or drinking from the lake.

Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in lakes and streams. They can rapidly increase in certain conditions to form a large mass or scum, called a bloom, and they produce toxins that pose health risks to people and animals.

Residential water treatment systems are not able to remove the toxins from the water, and boiling the water will actually increase its toxicity. Municipal water systems can be used normally unless residents are notified otherwise.

After swimming in lakes with toxic-blue green algae, humans and pets may experience stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea and skin rashes, and nerve and liver damage has been reported following long-term exposure.

If contact with the algae does occur, wash the area with soap and water or rinse with clean water to remove the algae.

If you spot a blue-green algae bloom, you are asked to report it to the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.