Heat spurs blue-green algae blooms - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Heat spurs blue-green algae blooms


MADISON (WKOW) – The combination of hot weather and high nutrient levels in our local lakes have caused some to grow toxic blue-green algae.

"We don't generally see get heavy blooms when it's cold, so it's one of the factors that effects the proliferation. First of all you need high nutrient levels, and then heat exasperates it," Madison & Dane County Public Health's Kirsti Sorsa said, noting the 90-degree days this week. 

Blooms began growing in June, afflicting Lake Monona and Mendota and forcing Madison and Dane County's Public Health department to close BB Clarke and Warner beaches temporarily until the blooms went away.

The agency closed Goodland County Park beach at Lake Waubesa after it found a large blue-green algae bloom on Monday.

"It's been there for the past couple days and we measured it and tested it, and it is definitely blue-green algae. So that's the reason the beach is closed right now," Public Health intern Heather Smaby said.

Smaby visits 15 local beaches every week to monitor bacteria and algae levels. Since closing Goodland County Park, she's returned every day to take samples.

"Blue-green algae is toxic to animals and humans," Smaby said. "It can be fatal to animals, and for humans it can have a lot of symptoms: it can cause you to get sick, to get a rash, things like that."

She says blue-green algae in the area comes in shades of blue-green, blue, green, and even brown.

Lake Waubesa has blue-green algae bloom problems every year, according to Sorsa, who says the lake's shallow depth and circulation through its sediment concentrates the algae's food supply.

"You have to avoid it. Don't let pets or kids play in it," Sorsa said. "If your pets go in the water accidentally, wash their fur because they can lick the toxins off their fur. If you get exposed, get a good shower and practice good hygiene."

Sorsa also says to visit the doctor if any symptoms such as blisters, gastrointestinal ailments, and respiratory irritation present themselves after swimming in the lakes.

Beach closure signage, however, doesn't always deter swimmers, according to Smaby.

"A lot of times people weren't really sure what the signs were saying or didn't realize how big of a risk it is to swim when the waters are bad," Smaby said. "So we have to talk to people and tell them why we're closing the beach and it's probably not safe for them because there's a potential health hazard."

Public Heath will continue to monitor Goodland County Park daily until the bloom dissipates.

"It's very difficult to treat, if impossible, because you can't really harvest it," Sorsa said.

Though the heat has encouraged blue-green algae to bloom, the heavy rains in June may have diluted the algae's food supply and helped keep other lakes in Dane County bloom-free this month, according to Sorsa.

For a list of current beach closures, visit Public Health, Dane County & Madison.

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