Utah Lake has been reopened for boating after officials had previously closed any access to it because of a large-scale algal bloom infestation on July 14. The most recent tests show the algae is dissipating, but there is still a warning in place regarding the dangerous effects of coming in contact with the water.
Two weeks ago when the lake was first closed, the first tests detected that the algal cell concentrations were three times over the threshold considered an’ acute health risk’ by the World Health Organization.
Donna Spangler, director of communications for Utah Department of Environmental Quality has said that the levels of toxins in the water have been constantly declining, as the latest tests show.
“The levels were either non-detect or low-detect in all but two areas, one near Saratoga Springs and the other in open water.”
The Utah County Health Department has issued a recommendation for people to avoid any activities in Utah Lake that would bring them in contact with the water, even though boating will be allowed. The scale of the algal bloom infestation and the toxins it produces has been reduced but there is still a health concern and as a general precaution it’s better to avoid the lake’s water.
On Friday, Health department officials will change the ‘closed’ signs surrounding the lake to ‘warning’ signs that come with information about the activities that should be avoided and other health concerns.
The cause of algal bloom is a combination of factors such as warm temperatures, high nutrient levels, sunlight and stagnant water. In general, not every type of algal growth is dangerous, only those that contain cyanobacteria which can cause fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting abdominal and reactions similar to allergies, when it comes in contact with skin. If water containing the toxin is ingested, it can even be fatal.
According to the Utah Poison Control Center, over 600 calls were made in relation to the bloom in Utah Lake, 511 calls made in regard to human exposures, 27 to animal exposures and 87 calls requesting more information.
The algal bloom phenomena have been especially prevalent this year, as several lakes, rivers, and coastlines all over the United States, in Florida especially, have been infected.
Do you live near an area with an algal bloom infestation?
Image source: Flickr