Health & Security Issues
Living in a rural setting alongside Mississippi Lake provides potential for a wonderful and healthy lifestyle, however there are some health and safety issues that you may not find in the city but of which you should be aware. Below we have highlighted some of the more commom concerns.
Ticks and Lyme Disease… What You Need to Know
The black-legged tick or deer tick is now commonly found in our area. Some of these ticks carry the bacteria responsible for causing Lyme Disease.
Ticks prefer to live in humid, wooded areas. Once temperatures rise above 4°C, ticks become active and begin to look for a blood meal. If an infected tick bites you and remains attached to you for over 24 hours you may be at an increased risk of getting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is preventable.
Although the black-legged tick is our current concern, it is important to know there are many types of ticks that can spread other diseases to people through bites. The Health Unit actively monitors for emerging ticks and tick diseases. Check here to identify ticks and for help to enjoy the outdoors while protecting you and your family from ticks
Blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Although often blue-green, they can also be olive-green or red.
They are not normally visible in the water, but populations can rapidly increase to form a large mass or scum called a bloom when conditions are favourable.
Blooms most commonly occur in late summer and early fall.
Dense blue-green algae blooms may make the water look bluish-green, or like green pea soup or turquoise paint.
Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass, while older blooms may smell like rotting garbage.
If you spot it take a cautious approach, as some varieties of this algae can produce toxins that are harmful to both humans and animals.
If you suspect a blue-green algal bloom:
assume toxins are present
avoid using, drinking, bathing or swimming in the water (call your local health unit for swimming advisories)
restrict pet and livestock access to the water
If it’s near your water supply remember that home treatment systems may not remove toxins and can get easily overwhelmed or clogged, so they should not be relied on. Do not boil the water, or manually treat the water with chlorine or other disinfectants, as this could increase the toxin levels.
For more detailed information on Blue-Green Algae
See Ontario's 12-point plan on blue green algal blooms
Recently there has been a lot of press relating to the dangers of Wild Parsnip. Is there a problem.
Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is an invasive plant native to Europe and Asia. It was likely brought to North America by European settlers, who grew it for its edible root. Since its introduction, wild parsnip has escaped from cultivated gardens and spread across the continent.
The problems, like with all invasive species, are many but from perspective of anyone enjoying nature the main concern is that if sap from this plant comes into contact with skin, and is then exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction can result in a mild or severe burn or rash, and sometimes blisters. In rare instances the skin damage may persist.
The good news is that it is fairly easy to protect yourself from parsnip sap. Learn to recognize what this plant looks like so that you can avoid it. Unlike with poison ivy that causes skin rash from oil on the surface of the ivy, parsnip plants must be broken to expose the sap. If you wash the parsnip sap off with soap and cold water as soon as possible and avoid exposure to sunlight for 48 hours, you can avoid the rash.
For more info on this plant you can check out:
Best Management Practices provide guidance for managing invasive Wild Parsnip
Ontario Guidance on Wild Parsnips
Safe Drinking Water
When you are living in the country you cannot count on the municipality to provide you with safe drinking water. For this each of is pretty much on our own. The local health unit provides guidance and we have covered a number of issues surrounding safe drinking water elsewhere in this site to help with questions you may have.
However independent we may feel it is important to note that we depend on our neighbours and fellow lake dwellers to also be aware and understand the importance of proper septic maintenance to the continued access to safe drinking water for all.
If you would like to know more about local water protection initiatives you can check out what is happening in Lanark County or follow that the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority is doing with respect to Source Water Protection and Rural Clean Water.
Flooding is common in Ontario and is a natural process but becomes a hazard when it poses a threat to people, property or the environment.
Flooding along rivers, lakes and streams can occur at any time of the year and there is concern that the likelihood of extreme weather and flooding will increase with a changing climate.
Even small changes in watershed conditions, such as increased water in soil, wetlands and lakes, can increase flooding risk.
Buildings that were once seasonal cottages built to withstand periodic flooding have been converted into year-round homes with finished basements and other renovations that may make them more susceptible to flood damage.
Flooding is considered the most significant natural hazard in Ontario in terms of death, damage and civil disruption and is the costliest type of natural disaster in Canada in terms of property damage.
Keep Informed: MVCA tracks water levels and advises on flood risks.
For information about how to manage your septic systems during high water, and after the water recedes, see this guidance:
Whether you own a cottage or a home around the lake its rural location means emergency services and police response may not be as readily available as it would be in town. As such, you may wish to spend a bit of extra time to ensure the security and safety of your home.
Below are some links to sites can provide some insight.
Checklist to help avoid theft from your rural property
Cottage Opening Tips from FOCA
Cottage Closing Tips from FOCA
Lanark County Crime Stoppers
Finally, keep informed - follow OPP Eastern Region posts on Facebook
Source Water Protection
In view of the value placed upon clean fresh water by our members (the #1 value, by far), a good portion of the Mississippi Lake Plan is devoted to this topic. The MLA is dedicated to ensuring that sources of water contamination are monitored and reduced and/or eliminated. Source water is vital to our heath and welfare, and good, clean, safe water is the ultimate aim, whether residents draw their water from private wells, or directly from the lake, or indeed entire towns like Carleton Place use the lake as their water source.
Contamination of source water can arise in a number of ways including: runoff from fields and properties; poorly maintained septic systems; and improper disposal of hazardous wastes. A good deal of importance has been placed on developing preventative measures and policies to reduce pollution in the first place. However, it is equally important to establish and maintain water treatment capabilities to capture pollutants that did get into our water supplies.
An ever growing and increasingly dangerous source of pollution is plastics. We think of plastic as fairly inert material, but it can have drastic effects on fish and birds, and over time it breaks down into very small particles that can affect human health as well. Here is a 2019 report on the kinds of micro-plastics that have been found in Mississippi Lake.
The following sources of information should guide you in making sure that (a) your own actions are not contributing to pollution; and (b) you are taking the proper measures for removing or at least minimizing contaminants in your drinking water source.
Source Water Protection info from MOECC
Mississippi-Rideau Septic Inspection Office (MRSSO) Septic Savvy presentation 2018