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Watching out for Harmful Algae Blooms at the Lake

If you are headed to the lake, it is time to look out for harmful algae blooms (cyanobacteria). These blooms are more common than one may think so it is always good to be on the look out for them. Some lakes bloom regularly, some lakes rarely have blooms and not every bloom is toxic. Most lakes regularly do laboratory testing to ensure the water is safe. Always be on the look out for warning signs of algae blooms before swimming in the water.

What are Harmful Algae Blooms?

Algae is a plant that is a natural part of the ecosystem that can multiply too quickly in certain conditions. Blooms can identify that the ecosystem is unbalanced and can contribute to problems in the food web and not allow as much oxygen in the water. There are only some algae blooms are harmful to people and pets.

What to Look Out For

Algae blooms can look different depending on the species present and most are caused by cyanobacteria. When you go to the lake here are some things to always look out for:

  • Slimy, scum, or growing clumps on the water

  • Algae on top of the water - it can be either blue-green, reddish-brown or green

  • Looks like a paint spill in the water

Be Aware of these Symptoms if You Have Been Exposed

If you think you have been exposed to cyanobacteria, be aware of these symptoms you may experience:

  • Rashes on the skin

  • Sudden, unexplained sickness

If You Suspect a Bloom, Avoid the Area

Since harmful algae blooms can only be identified by laboratory testing, if you see something that looks like it could be a bloom, avoid the area.

If you spot a bloom, contact the local lake management in that area so they can do further testing to keep the ares safe for people and pets.

You may be able to find laboratory testing done on lakes in your area on the local health department website. For example, here are lakes in Lincoln, NE and surrounding areas that have been tested.

How Algae Blooms Can be Prevented

There are steps each individual can take in preventing algae blooms:

  • Clean up pet waste

  • Maintain your septic system

  • Avoid use of fertilizers

  • Do not feed ducks and geese

  • Wash your vehicles away from the lake

  • Maintain vegetation around the lake

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