Warm Weather Creating Ideal Conditions For Harmful Algae

Warm weather and high nutrient levels are raising concerns about growing blue-green algae populations in Indiana's waterways.

If you’re thinking about a nice refreshing dip in the pool, you may want to think again.

“Right now were around 90 degrees in the main pool,” said Rob Gilchrist, Aquatics Coordinator with the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.

Bryan Park Pool has seen those water temperatures for nearly 2 weeks.

“Unfortunately with the evening’s temperatures not dropping significantly, the water doesn’t really get a chance to cool down and of course it does sit through the entire day baking in the sun,” said Gilchrist.

But pool water baking in the sun is much different then say, lake water baking in the sun. Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, thrives when water remains warm and is high in nutrients like phosphates and nitrates. With higher cell counts is a higher likelihood the algae cells will produce toxins harmful to both humans and animals.

“There could be some dermal toxicity so your skin could get irritated, you could have some rashes,” said Melissa Clark, a lecturer with Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “There are some that produce a neurotoxin and some produce liver toxins.”

On July 19th the Paynetown State Recreation Area at Monroe Lake was tested and surpassed the cautionary limit of 100,000 cells per milliliter of water, set by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. That doesn’t necessarily mean its not safe to swim, only that IDEM will continue to monitor the situation. Clark noted there are over 100 varieties of blue-green algae and not all produce harmful toxins.

The greatest danger comes from bodies of water that aren’t tested, such as neighborhood retention ponds which are designed to hold nutrient rich runoff making them ideal for large algae populations. Human and animal deaths from algal toxins are not uncommon.

“Take a precautionary approach to it. If you come up to the pond, and it looks really green and your thinking ‘I definitely don’t want to get in to it’, its probably not a good idea to let your dog drink from it,” said Clark.

Don’t let your children or animals play in small ponds and make sure you pay attention to warnings at recreational swimming areas. More information about the Indiana Department of Environmental Managements findings can be found at www.Algae.IN.gov

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