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“The Eyes of the Lake”

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Mem­phré­m­a­gog

With beach clos­ings in the prov­ince oc­cur­ring more and more of­ten dur­ing the sum­mer, two beaches in the Coat­i­cook MRC be­ing the most re­cent ones to close, people of the Mem­phrem­a­gog re­gion can be thank­ful that their great lake, uniquely in Que­bec, has its

pro­tec­tors: The MCI Lake Pa­trollers.

Mem­phrem­a­gog Con­ser­va­tion Inc. (MCI) be­gan hir­ing univer­sity stu­dents sev­eral years ago to pa­trol Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog through­out the sum­mer, look­ing for any changes along its shore­line, in­frac­tions to build­ing codes, or any other kind of ac­tiv­ity that could po­ten­tially harm the lake.

This year’s pa­trollers are three ‘en­vi­ron­men­tally keen’ Univer­sité de Sher­brooke stu­dents: Anais Messier, Anthony Berg­eron and Ari­ane Or­jikh, the co­or­di­na­tor of the pa­trol who is on her sec­ond ‘tour of duty’ on the lake. “As the co­or­di­na­tor I have more work in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, con­tact­ing mu­nic­i­pal in­spec­tors when we see vi­o­la­tions, fol­low­ing up on all the files, and writ­ing the pres­i­dent of MCI about what we’re do­ing,” ex­plained Ms. Or­jikh who is com­plet­ing a Masters of Bi­ol­ogy in “Chem­ine­ment Ecolo­gie In­ter­na­tional”.

“We’re out on the lake a lot, look­ing for al­most any­thing that could have a bad ef­fect on the lake, and we take pho­tos of it,” said Ms. Messier. “We check to see that people car­ry­ing out con­struc­tion are re­spect­ing the reg­u­la­tions; we’re the ‘eyes’ of the lake,” said Mr. Berg­eron. “Or if we see garbage, we’ll go and get that, too. And we al­ways have the phone with us, in case we get any calls,” said Ms. Messier who, along with Mr. Berg­eron has just com­pleted a Bach­e­lor’s De­gree in En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies. “We are part of the first group of stu­dents to grad­u­ate from this pro­gram in Que­bec,” said Anthony with a lit­tle pride.

“But it’s not only the lake­side res­i­dents who have an ef­fect on the lake – it’s ev­ery­one liv­ing in the wa­ter­shed. When people use fer­til­iz­ers or soaps with phos­phates, it gets into the wa­ter sys­tem,” said Anais.

“People of­ten call us about blue-green al­gae, think­ing that they have seen it, but we haven’t seen any yet this sum­mer and there was only one bloom last year. In May and June, what people usu­ally see in the wa­ter is pollen, very yel­low­ish. With a blue-green al­gae bloom, it looks like the wa­ter has been cov­ered with a layer of green paint,” ex­plained Anais care­fully. “Fitch Bay is the part of the lake with the most al­gae, the most ma­te­rial in sus­pen­sion in the wa­ter. Be­cause it’s so deep, and other fac­tors, it is the most vul­ner­a­ble area of the lake,” she added.

“I’m re­ally en­joy­ing this job. It’s great to be out on Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog al­most ev­ery day, work­ing to save a lake; this ex­pe­ri­ence is very com­ple­men­tary with my field of study. We’re also each do­ing per­sonal stud­ies, mine is on the tur­bid­ity of the wa­ter of Fitch Bay, which we will give to MCI at the end of the sea­son,” com­mented Anthony. Anais is study­ing the qual­ity of the buf­fer zones around Fitch Bay while Ari­ane is look­ing at oxy­gen lev­els in the lake. “When there’s not enough oxy­gen in the lake it could be be­cause al­gae is us­ing up that oxy­gen, then the fish don’t get enough oxy­gen; it’s the chain of con­se­quences,” he men­tioned.

“There is a lot of cyanobac­te­ria in Que­bec lakes now, and there are lots of rivers that are pol­luted, like the Ya­maska, the Riche­lieu River and the St. Fran­cois River, one of the worst rivers in the prov­ince. Agri­cul­ture is the big­gest prob­lem, for ex­am­ple, the buf­fer zone along wa­ter­ways on agri­cul­tural land is only three me­ters,” com­mented Ms. Or­jikh.

Ari­ane con­tin­ued: “I be­lieve that Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog is a good lake; there was only one al­gae bloom last year, and none

yet this year. There were a lot of al­gae blooms on the lake in 2006 – we don’t want that to come back. Here on Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog so many people work for the pro­tec­tion of the lake. That must con­tinue.”

Anthony agreed that the lake had many pro­tec­tors, people try­ing to min­i­mize or elim­i­nate their harm­ful hu­man ac­tiv­ity: “The people should con­tinue to do the right thing and to treat the lake with re­spect. They’ve done a lot to pro­tect their lake but there is still work to do.”

Lake­side or river­side res­i­dents with ques­tions or con­cerns re­lated to the lake (cyanobac­te­ria, con­struc­tions, re­plant­ing etc.) can con­tact the MCI pa­trollers at 819 620-3939 seven days a week un­til 8:00 pm, or at pa­trouille@mem­phrem­a­gog.org.

Photo cour­tesy

Pa­trolling Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog this year for MCI are (l. to r.)

Anthony Berg­eron, Ari­ane Or­jikh and Anais Messier.

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