Department of Ecology News Release - August 18, 2015

Watch out for harmful algae blooms across state
Drought worsening this normal phenomenon in waters

OLYMPIA – Lakes, rivers and Puget Sound are experiencing more intense and widespread algae blooms this summer and scientists believe warm water due to the state’s drought is partly to blame.

The Washington Department of Ecology and other agencies are currently monitoring algae concentrations in both fresh and marine waters.

On the freshwater front, the Washington State Toxic Algae Program reports that 9 lakes in Washington currently have toxic algae blooms. They are:

According the health officials, toxic blue-green algae blooms can make people sick. This is especially true for small children and the elderly. Pets can die after drinking water with a toxic bloom and should not swim in lakes with toxic algae.

“If you see green algae in the water, don’t go into the water,” says Lizbeth Seebacher, an environmental scientist who oversees the state’s freshwater algae control program in conjunction with the state Department of Health. “A good rule to remember is that if you see scum on the water, don’t swim in it, and don’t let pets swim in or drink the water.”

Not all lakes in Washington are monitored for toxic algae, but lakes can be tested if a suspected toxic algae bloom is reported. To find out what a toxic algae bloom looks like, see what lakes are having toxic algae blooms, and to report a suspected algae bloom, visit the Washington State Toxic Algae website. And sign up to receive email alerts about toxic algae blooms from Ecology.

If you suspect you have been exposed to toxic algae, see your physician. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, take it to the vet immediately.

“Knowing this information can keep you safe, especially your pets and children,” said Joan Hardy of the state Department of Health.

Toxins can also affect shellfish on our marine beaches. Know before you dig. Call the Shellfish Safety Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or visit the Department of Health’s shellfish safety website to find out which recreational shellfish beaches are closed.

Toxins are also responsible for crab fishing closures along Washington’s coast, according to the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

To help prevent algae blooms:

To learn more about what you can do to keep our waters clean, visit Ecology’s water education website, Washington Waters – Ours to Protect.

Contact:

Sandy Howard, communications, 360-791-3177, @ecologyWA