In lakes contaminated with blue-green algae, KDHE recommends the following precautions be taken:
• Do not drink the lake water
• Avoid swimming, wading or other activities with full body contact of lake water
• Clean fish well, consume only the fillet portion, and discard all other fish parts
• Keep pets from having contact with or drinking the water
Exposure to toxins from the algae can cause illness and is dependent on the route of the exposure. Contact with the water, such as wading or swimming, can cause a skin rash, as well as eye, ear and throat irritation. Ingestion or inhaling contaminated water can cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, fatigue and flu-like symptoms.
Animals, especially dogs, can also become ill.
Great Bend’s Veterans Memorial Lake remains under a public health warning due to an on-going problem with toxic blue-green algae, city and state officials said Tuesday.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” Terry Hoff, City of Great Bend human resources director. “We have never taken down the signs” that call attention to the possible threat.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment uses a two-tier warning system for algae. First is a public health advisory which notifies public that a hazardous condition exists, asks that signs should be posted at all public access locations, indicates water may be unsafe for humans/animals, and discourages contact with the water.
A more serious public health warning notifies public that conditions are unsafe and water contact should not occur. All conditions of an advisory also remain in effect.
Algae blooms at the Vets have been an on-going problem at Vets for the past few years. In in 2010 the algae forced the closure of the lake.
“It is still a danger for extended contact,” Hoff said of the lake. Fishing, albeit with caution, is allowed, but people and pets should stay out of the lake.
The lake made the news as the only one in Kansas with algae woes. However, five others have since either been tested or are in the process of being tested, said Mike Butler of KDHE’s Bureau of Environmental Field Services in Topeka.
Even so, he said the Great Bend lake has remained on the agency’s radar. Normally, KDHE ceases testing in October. But, with Vets, sampling has continued throughout the winter.
As for the impact of warmer summer temperatures on the algae, Butler said it is difficult to say. Blue-green algae lingers in the lake year-round, but the type of blue-green algae varies from season to season. “There’s no way to predict.”
The lake serves as a storm water receptacle and rarely discharges, making the concentration of nutrients much greater.
Hoff said aerators were installed to keep oxygen levels from getting depleted. So far, this has prevented fish kills, but don’t do much to reduce the algae.
One source of the problem is the waste from the geese that reside in the park. Efforts to chase them away have not worked, he said.
According to KDHE, bluegreen algae are found in most surface waters. In heavy concentrations they may form an algae bloom. Bluegreen algae blooms often resemble green paint floating on the water; in fact blooms are often mistaken as paint spills. When bluegreen algae die they can produce an unpleasant smell. These blooms can cause a number of concerns including production of toxins in the water affecting people, pets and potentially fish and shellfish.
The blooms often result when nutrients present in the water (nitrogen and phosphorus), temperature and other environmental conditions stimulate algae growth. The blooms result from longterm build up of nutrients in the water body. Concentrations of bluegreen algae in water vary on a daily or even hourly basis due to prevailing winds and currents. In time, algae blooms will naturally die off. Exceptionally warm weather will contribute to an algae bloom.
KDHE will continue to monitor the situations and rescind warnings as soon as conditions warrant. If the public has any questions or concerns, KDHE can be contacted during normal business hours at 866-865-3233.
Further information on algae and algae blooms can be found at www.kdheks.gov/algae-illness/index.htm.