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Toxic algae still plagues Vets Lake
new deh vets algae pic web
A sign posted at Veterans Memorial Lake in Great Bend tells of the possible dangers of the toxic algae. The lake remains closed to recreational activities as state officials continue to monitor the water. - photo by Tribune file photo

Toxic blue-green algae continues to be a problem at Great Bend’s Veterans Memorial Lake, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Friday. The lake remains closed to recreational activity as the agency continues to monitor the water.

KDHE is maintaining its warnings of elevated toxic algae concentrations at Vets, as well as Lake Meade in Meade County. Current concentrations of algae in these waters exceeded the KDHE recommended level of 100,000 cells/ml for recreational water use.

In addition, KDHE has issued advisories (a step below warnings) of harmful algae at Central Park Lake, Shawnee County. An advisory allows for boating and fishing at the lake. All other contact with water is discouraged for people and pets.

"Unfortunately all we can do is wait and see if Mother Nature cooperates," said Terry Hoff, City of Great Bend human resource director, of Veterans. "We’re in a long stretch here. We wish that wasn’t the case."

In mid August, state health officials issued a public health advisory due to toxic algae in Vets. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was contacted by the City of Great Bend and issued its warning because of the bloom that has 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 remains in place until KDHE, along with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, deems the water safe.

The city has applied for a Wildlife and Parks grant that would cover part of the cost to install aerators in the lake to help circulate oxygen. If approved, this wouldn’t be available until next year and, Hoff said, it would help the fish but wouldn’t stop the algae.

"We just have to let it run its course," Hoff said. All the city can do, he said, is keep Vets closed until health officials give the all-clear.

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.

Animals, especially dogs, can also become ill.

Algae blooms at the lake have occurred in the past, most recently last summer. However, the toxicity levels in the lake were not sufficient enough for KDHE to issue an advisory.

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 body parts

• Keep pets from having contact with or drinking the water

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