What you need to know about toxic blue-green algae in local lakes

What you need to know about toxic blue-green algae in local lakes

Word has spread across the nation this summer about the dangers of toxic blue-green algae.

Authorities have warned people about large blooms on Moses Lake, Fernan Lake, and Lower Twin Lake in the past few weeks.

Three dogs died in North Carolina after swimming in a pond and ingesting water contaminated with the algae.

Now, experts are closely monitoring blooms in parts of Spokane Lake.

LSA said the bloom has been especially active recently in the Suncrest Park area and upstream. I’m heading to that part of the lake with an LSA member to see the growth and learn more about it. Catch the full story tonight on #4NewsNow #Spokane #algae https://t.co/tgxgAOF7ZI

— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) August 26, 2019

Galen Buterbaugh serves as a technical advisor to the Lake Spokane Association. The nonprofit is dedicated to protecting the water, sharing information about it, and encouraging people to enjoy it safely.

You can find Buterbaugh testing water on the lake a few times a week during the summer. He is learning more and more about the algae there and its spread.

“All month, we’ve had blooms off and on. They’re always spotty. It’s never the whole lake,” Buterbaugh said.

He’s noticed the bloom be especially active in Suncrest Park. It wasn’t on the surface Monday morning, but has been before.

“Once it drifts into shore and becomes a thick mat that you can’t see through, then it is concentrated enough that if people drink it…or dogs drink it…it can be harmful,” Buterbaugh said.

Buterbaugh said dogs have died from drinking that water from Spokane Lake years ago.

“In fact, the first report of dying dogs from blue-green algae was in Lake Spokane back in the 50s,” Buterbaugh said. “That was back before they finally started to make the association between the algae and that some were toxic.”

Researchers have since learned that each species of algae produces different types of poisons. Some impact the liver and others impact the brain.

Anyone who notices strange symptoms after being in the water should contact a doctor immediately. A Dogs exposed to the algae can have diarrhea or vomiting, weakness or staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing, and convulsions or seizures, according to the EPA. Those symptoms can show up within minutes of being in the contaminated water. They may also appear days after.

Despite the danger, Buterbaugh said it’s simple to avoid the contaminated water.

If you see the scum on the surface of the water, whether it is blue-green or red-brown, avoid it.

“Enjoy the water and the lakes and stuff. But, just be careful,” Buterbaugh said.

You can track reports of toxic algae in Washington here.