Toxic Blue-Green Algae Health Alert

By: Jodi Baker Email
By: Jodi Baker Email

As the lake season draws to an end, the Department of Health and Human Services is in its final week of sampling for toxic blue-green algae. A new health alert has been issued for Swan Creek 5A resevoir (Saline County).

Previously issued health alerts remain in effect at Pawnee Reservoir (Lancaster County) and Willow Creek Reservoir (Pierce County), and a new alert has been issued for Swan Creek 5A Reservoir (Saline County).

Samples taken earlier this week at the swimming beaches at Swan Creek 5A and Willow Creek were above the state’s health alert threshold of 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total Microcystins (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae).

Pawnee Reservoir showed readings that had dropped below the action level this week, but remains on alert. Lakes on the list must have two consecutive weeks of readings below 20 ppb before the alert is removed.

During the recreational season, when a health alert is issued, signs are posted at lakes and swimming beaches are closed. The public is advised to avoid activities that could involve accidental ingestion of water, and to make sure their pets don’t drink from the lake. People can still use the public areas for picnics and other outdoor activities.

Although the sampling for this season has ended, the state continues to advise people to look for signs of toxic algae when they visit lakes in Nebraska, and to make sure their pets do not drink from lakes that show signs of blue-green algae.

Among the signs to look out for, is water that has a neon green, pea green, blue-green or reddish-brown color. People should also beware of foam, scum or a thick paint-like appearance on the water surface. Green or blue-green streaks may also be visible on the surface, or accumulated in bays and along shorelines.

Testing for toxic blue-green algae will resume May 1, 2009.

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