After sampling Veterans’ Memorial Lake in Great Bend for toxic cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has placed the lake under a “public health warning,” the KDHE announced Friday.
KDHE samples publicly accessible bodies of water for algae when the agency is alerted to a potential algae bloom in Kansas lakes. When harmful blooms are present, KDHE, in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and other lake managers where appropriate, make such determinations.
When under a warning, the body of water has high levels of toxic blue-green algae. This indicates that water conditions are unsafe and direct water contact (wading, skiing and swimming) is prohibited.
“This is a downgrade from last fall” when the lake was under an advisory instead of a warning, said Terry Hoff, Great Bend Human Resources Manager. Under the KDHE’s standards, a warning is worse than and advisory.
“This is considered a little more serious,” Hoff said. City crews are taking down the old signs and posting new ones.
Hoff said it was just a matter of a few weeks ago things were looking better. But, then the hot weather arrived and the heat sped the growth of the algae.
When a warning is issued, KDHE recommends the following precautions be taken:
• Humans, pets and livestock do not drink lake water
• Water contact is prohibited. Avoid swimming, wading or other activities with full body contact of lake water
• Clean fish and rinse with clean water, consume only the fillet portion, and discard all other parts
• Do not allow pets to eat dried algae
• If lake water contacts skin or pet fur, wash with clean potable water as soon as possible
• Avoid areas of visible algae accumulation
Other warnings are in place at Logan City Lake, Phillips County, and Marion Reservoir, Marion County.
There is another level of alert, a public health advisory. This also indicates that a hazardous condition exists and that activities are strongly discouraged for people, pets and livestock.
There is only one body of water in this category – Milford Lake (north of Farnum Creek), Geary County.
KDWPT reminds visitors that when a lake is under an Advisory or Warning, marinas, lakeside businesses, and park camping facilities remain open for business, although swim beaches will be closed. Park drinking water and showers are safe and not affected by the algae bloom. Also, it is safe to eat fish caught during a harmful blue-green algae outbreak, as long as consumers clean and rinse the fish with clean, potable water; consume only the fillet portion; and discard all other parts. People should also wash their hands with clean, potable water after handling fish taken from an affected lake.
As for the future of Veterans’ Memorial Lake, “there’s not anything we can do,” Hoff said. “No solution that’s out there is very good.”
Anything that would have a lasting impact, such as dredging, would be very expensive.
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.
The city installed emulsion diffusers, submerged devices that are attached to an air compressor and gently release oxygen bubbles into the water, to help alleviate the problem.
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.