Algae Bloom Monitoring
Washington State Toxic Algae program – Find your lake, report a bloom, see photos of blooms, learn about health risks
Freshwater Algal Identification and Toxicity-Testing Service
The Washington Department of Ecology offers a freshwater algal identification and toxicity-testing service for Washington state residents and County Health Districts in Washington State. This service identifies algae blooms and is not meant for routine lake phytoplankton assessment. Stringy algae that can be picked up and handled, is probably filamentous algae, which is unsightly and annoying to some lake users. This service is intended for cyanobacteria (blue- green algae) bloom identification, rather than filamentous green algae.
You may search the new improved database to see which Washington water bodies experience toxic algae blooms (not all Washington lakes are sampled).
My lake looks like pea soup. I think there is an algae problem.
When algae grow to such an extent that they color the water, they are said to be blooming. If your lake looks like pea soup, it may be experiencing an algae bloom.
What does an algae bloom look like?
Blooms may turn the water pea soup green, brownish, or even red. When blue-green blooms start decomposing, they can turn bright blue or white and are often reported as paint spills. We have provided a link to a page that shows photographs of different algae blooms in Washington. These photographs illustrate what a bloom can look like at different stages and under different weather conditions. If your lakes looks like these photographs, it may have an algae bloom.
How do I have a lake water sample tested for algae?
If you think that your lake has an algae bloom, please refer to this site: Washington State Toxic Algae Freshwater Algae Bloom Monitoring Program
Others may have reported the same bloom.
Because you may not be the only person who lives on your lake who has reported the bloom, Ecology may already be working with county health district staff or other lake residents about the same bloom that you are reporting. If so, Ecology may already have people collecting samples from that water body. In some locations, county health district or lakes program staff have requested that they be notified when a potential algal bloom is identified. In some situations, county staff may prefer to collect the samples themselves. If requested, Ecology staff will keep you informed about the algae identification and toxicity testing results from your lake.
How to participate in the algal bloom identification program
What happens if I am asked to send in an algae sample?
If Ecology staff asks you to send in an algae sample, they will provide you with specific directions about how to collect the sample and how to send or deliver it to the laboratory. It is very important for you to carefully follow the directions. Once at the laboratory, specialists will identify the algae species. If the sample contains an alga known to produce toxins, the laboratory will run a toxin analysis on the sample. If the sample contains a known toxin-producing alga, you may be asked to send in more samples. Be aware that Ecology cannot reimburse postage or delivery costs.
How do I collect a sample?
Please work through the Washington Department of Ecology. The laboratory will not accept outside samples unless they have been pre-approved by Ecology. If you are approved to collect a sample, Ecology staff will provide you with specific directions about sample collection, preservation, and shipping information. The lake or water body must be located in Washington state to be eligible for this service.
Where do I send the sample?
If asked to collect a sample, Ecology staff will provide you with mailing or delivery addresses. Be aware that Ecology cannot reimburse postage or delivery costs.
How do I get the results?
Ecology or county staff will contact you with information on algae identification and toxicity. Ecology staff will also enter this information into Ecology's web- based algae database. However, it may take a few weeks before Ecology can upload the most recent information.
Can I see the results from other lakes?
Ecology has an on-line algae database. You can enter a water body name and if there is any algae information for this water body in the database, the information will be displayed. You will also be able to search for algae by genus or common names to see the locations in Washington where specific species have been reported.
Ecology has been entering data collected from water bodies since 2007 when the algal identification and toxicity testing program started. However, Ecology has entered historical information on algae blooms for some Washington lakes. Currently, the database is updated weekly. You should not assume that because there is no information in the algae database about a lake, that there is no information. Ecology is not able to enter all historical information.
In 2012, Ecology partnered with King County to develop a new and improved algae database with maps. Link to the improved database - http:/www.nwtoxicalgae.org
Ecology has set up a listserv for freshwater algae. The Freshwater Algae Program Listserv will act as an information exchange and discussion forum about freshwater algae in Washington. A listserv is a program that allows people to send email to one address, which automatically resends that message to all of the other subscribers on the list. If you would like to join the list, click here for directions on how to subscribe to the list.
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