Department of Ecology News Release - May 9, 2012
OLYMPIA – Sunshine is making many of us feel happier in the Northwest, but it’s also causing algae blooms in Western Washington waters.
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and many other jurisdictions are currently monitoring algae concentrations in both fresh and marine waters.
Blooms are occurring in lakes in Jefferson, Mason and Thurston counties. Jefferson County’s Anderson Lake is currently closed to use because of a toxic algae bloom. Local health officials advise people to stay out of and off the lake.
Marine water algae blooms are rearing up in Puget Sound’s Budd Inlet, in Sinclair Inlet and in the central Sound north of Vashon Island. Ecology’s Marine Monitoring Program displays recent aerial photos of Puget Sound online. Many of the photos are showing algae blooms. See the images at Eyes Over Puget Sound.
An algae bloom is the visible appearance of millions of tiny plant-like organisms in the water. As spring and summer weather commences, people may encounter waters with visible algae blooms while they are enjoying the outdoors. Blooms are naturally occurring and common during sunny weather.
Some types of blooms can produce toxins that can make people sick if they are exposed to the toxins. This is especially true for small children and the elderly. Pets can die after drinking water with a toxic bloom.
Toxins also affect shellfish. Know before you dig. Call the Shellfish Safety Hotline, 1-800-562-5632, to find out which recreational shellfish beaches are closed.
Other types of blooms may not be toxic, but can be an environmental concern because when algae die, they sink and decay, which strips oxygen from the water. Aquatic life needs oxygen to survive.
Sometimes algae blooms look like spilled paint, oil or sewage. The public can report any suspected spill or algae bloom to the state at Ecology’s website, or by calling 800-OILS-911.
You can also learn more about lake algae and sign up to receive emails about lake algae blooms by visiting Ecology’s Freshwater Algae Control Program website or visit King County’s lakes website.
Nutrients that get into our waters feed algae blooms. Nutrients, which are substances that contain nitrogen and/or phosphorus, come from a complex variety of natural and human sources and pathways, including wastewater treatment plants, septic systems, groundwater, rivers, fertilizers and polluted runoff.
People can help keep nutrients out of Washington waters.
To learn more about what you can do to keep our waters clean, visit Ecology’s water education website, Washington Waters – Ours to Protect.
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Ecology’s marine monitoring flight captured this image of a typical Puget Sound bloom last year.
YouTube video of a marine waters bloom
Algae blooms often look like spilled paint in the water. This photo taken at a Western Washington lake is a good example of what a toxic blue-green algae bloom looks like. Photo by Don Russell.
Media contact: Sandy Howard, 360-407-6408 (desk); 360-791-3177 (cellular); email@example.com
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