The toxic algae threat that closed Veterans Memorial Lake in Great Bend to all recreational activities has been down graded from a warning to an advisory, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday afternoon.
The advisory means algae continues to be detected. However, it allows for boating and fishing at the lake. All other contact with water is discouraged for people and pets.
"It is good news that we are moving in a positive direction," said Terry Hoff, City of Great Bend human resources director. Results from tests done on the most recent samples taken two weeks ago "show there’s been a significant improvement."
The blue-green algae bloom first became a problem at Vets in mid August when state health officials issued a public health advisory. The KDHE was contacted by the city and issued its warning because the bloom that had taken over the lake.
City ordinances have always ban swimming and wading in Vet’s, but local officials closed the lake to fishing and pets. The order remained in place until health officials deemed the water safe.
"We can allow fishing out there now," Hoff said. He did advise that only fish fillets be eaten and that all fish taken be cleaned well.
"It’s been a long time," Hoff said of the ordeal and he’s hated to bar residents from using the lake. "It’s been very frustrating."
Cooler weather and recent rains might have helped, Hoff said. "We just had to wait this out."
Hoff had told city crews to stop stocking the lake with trout while the water was compromised. Now, he will ask that for that practice to resume.
The city will remove the signs noting the warning and replace them with ones telling of the advisory. "There are still precautions people need to take."
Now that the restrictions have been lessened, Hoff said KDHE won’t be back to test again for another month. However, he’s been told by KDHE officials that following the next sampling, all limitations will likely be removed.
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.
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.
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.