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Cleansing stations to be added at Lac Ste. Anne to deal with blue-green algae

The Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site in Alberta on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Pope Francis is scheduled to make a pilgrimage to the water during his visit to the Canadian province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jessie Wardarski

LAC STE. ANNE, Alta. — Organizers of the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage say cleansing stations are to be provided for anyone who wants to enter the lake next week.

Alberta Health Services issued a blue-green algae bloom advisory for the lake Thursday afternoon.

It comes just days before the Pope is set to visit the lake and kick off the pilgrimage at the site west of Edmonton.

Each July, thousands of people go to the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in search of healing and spiritual renewal. 

But those who come into contact with visible blue-green algae or drink water containing it may get a rash, sore throat, nausea or diarrhea.

The pilgrimage board says in a statement that the health and safety of everyone attending is a priority.

"To that end, cleansing stations will be available at the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage site," it says.

The board says there's no change to the schedule of the papal visit and notes the archdiocese is working with county, provincial and federal governments to ensure its success.

Alberta Health Services says in its advisory that people should take precautions, such as avoiding contact with any algae blooms and washing with tap water as soon as possible if there is any contact.

It says people shouldn't drink or cook with water from the lake, because boiling it doesn't reduce the toxins from blue-green algae.

"We acknowledge that this lake is of high significance to many people, and we anticipate that it will be visited by large numbers of people next week as part of the papal visit," says the advisory.

"We are working closely with organizers of the visit to ensure that people can reduce their risk if they choose to visit the lake."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2022.

The Canadian Press