Your Reliable Source

Print
Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

A blog by your local public health experts

Spanaway Lake toxic algae advisory changed from closure to caution

Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf
by Steve Metcalf08/22/2019 2:02 p.m.
Updated: 11/05/2019

Update

On Nov. 5, we lifted the closure for toxic algae at Spanaway Lake. We changed the advisory to caution because the toxic algae bloom remains in the water. It is smaller and the toxin levels are lower. The caution advisory means you should avoid areas of the lake where you see algae because they can pose health concerns. Signs are posted at the lake to let you know about the advisory.

When you see algae, don’t swim, wade, waterski, or fish. Keep in mind as wind direction changes, the algae could move elsewhere in the lake. When in doubt, stay out!

We will inspect the lake again next week. If the bloom is no longer there, we will leave the advisory in place for 2 weeks out of an abundance of caution. Find our list of current surface water advisories at ww.tpchd.org/advisories. Read our previous post below to learn more.

Original post Aug. 22

On Aug. 22, we closed Spanaway Lake because of high levels of toxic algae. People and pets should stay out of the water, and you should not use it for recreation—don’t swim, wade, waterski, or fish.

The lake had been under a caution advisory since Aug. 8. That’s when we recommended people avoid parts of the lake with algae. On Aug. 19, we retested the water.

When results came back, we found the lake had algae with very high levels of toxins. Out of an abundance of caution, we closed the lake to keep you safe.

We will inspect the lake again next week. Even if the bloom is no longer there, the closure will remain in place for 2 weeks. Find our list of current surface water advisories at www.tpchd.org/advisories.

What are toxic algae?

Toxic algae, also known as cyanobacteria, occur naturally in lakes. They can produce toxins that make people, pets, and animals sick. Read our brochure to learn more about toxic algae.

How can you spot toxic algae?

Toxic algae can form a scum layer and look like green pea soup. They can also look streaky, be dispersed in the water column, or form clumps. Algae can have different colors, most often green but also brown, red, and blueish. Wind and weather conditions can change the amount and location of algae.

What are the symptoms?

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.

See your medical provider if you may have been in water with toxic algae and have any of these symptoms. Small children are at most risk since they have small bodies and are likely to ingest water.

Skin in contact with toxic algae can become irritated or break out in a rash. This is different from Swimmer's Itch.

How can toxic algae affect my pets?

Pets are at great risk. They have small bodies and are more likely to ingest larger amounts of toxic algae. They may drink water with toxic algae and lick their fur. Take your pet to the vet when it shows any of these symptoms.

  • Lethargy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Convulsions.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • General weakness.

What should I do if exposed to toxic algae?

You can get sick within minutes to hours of exposure. Rinse off anyone or any pets exposed to toxic algae immediately. Look for signs of illness and seek medical treatment if symptoms occur. For exposed pets, keep them from licking their fur to groom.

Can I eat fish from toxic algae contaminated water?

Avoid eating fish from areas with visible algae. Always clean fish well and discard guts.

What should I do if I see an algae bloom?

  • Don’t drink lake water.
  • Don’t swim or waterski in areas with visible algae.
  • Keep pets and livestock away.

When in doubt stay out!

What causes toxic algae?

Toxic algae need light, the right temperature, and nutrients. You can help to reduce nutrients and prevent toxic algae:

  • Reduce your use of fertilizer.
  • Maintain your septic system.
  • Put pet waste into the trash.

Visit www.tpchd.org/toxicalgae to learn more.

  1. Updated: 11/05/2019
Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf

by Steve Metcalf

Steve helps share timely and relevant public health information.

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.