Harmful algae found in Washington’s lakes and rivers
The Washington State Department of Health is advising the public to take precautions while enjoying water recreation this summer. Harmful algal blooms have been found in some lakes and rivers in Washington State. Algae blooms may vary in appearance, but generally resemble pea soup or are blue-green or turquoise in color.
What are seaweed flowers?
Harmful algae blooms occur when algae with toxic strains begin to grow in freshwater or saltwater. Freshwater algal blooms caused by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are more common in lakes, but can occur in rivers and streams with warm, slow, and stagnant water.
DOH, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Spokane Regional Health District are investigating Spokane area water sources following the deaths of three dogs after swimming in the Little Spokane River near Chatteroy and the sickness of a dog after swimming in the Spokane River near Harvard Road Bridge. While cyanobacteria blooms in rivers are rare, hot, dry weather and low water flows led to confirmed blooms in the two areas where the dogs had swam.
The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from day to day. It is not possible to determine how dangerous a flower is to humans and animals by looking at it. Only tests can tell if it’s dangerous.
The extreme heat this summer and lower than normal water levels can create the perfect environment for
organisms to grow and multiply easily. “Due to the continued drought and warm temperatures in our state, lakes, rivers and streams are currently under tremendous stress,” said Scott Lindquist, Acting Scientific Director, MD, MPH. “As a result, we are receiving reports of toxic algae blooms in areas we have never seen before.”
Right now no local lakes in Auburn are listed as having toxic algal blooms. The nearest lake currently listed as exceeding state recreation guidelines is Hicklin Lake, near Burien. This does not mean that the lakes near Auburn, such as Lake Tapps or Lake Dolloff, are free from algae blooms. The lakes surrounding Auburn were not tested in 2021.
The dangers of algae blooms
Dogs and other animals are often exposed by drinking contaminated water, swallowing water while swimming, or licking cyanobacteria from their fur. If you think your pets or livestock have been exposed to a toxic algae bloom, wash them immediately with clean water to prevent them from licking bacteria from their fur. Possible signs that your pet may have been exposed to a harmful algal bloom may include vomiting and / or diarrhea, loss of coordination, tremors and seizures.
The public is invited to take the following precautions when choosing a body of water for recreation:
- People who swim or play in water should shower with soap and water when finished.
- Contact a health care provider immediately if you become ill or have symptoms after suspected exposure to algal blooms.
- Report suspected toxic algae blooms in Washington state online toxic algae monitoring site or contact your local health jurisdiction
The above is a press release from the WA Department of Health. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.