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A bloomin' mess at Hillsboro pond

News editor

City officials issued a blue-green algae warning Tuesday for the Hillsboro Heights retaining pond west of the former Alco building.

“Our mower was actually out mowing the right-of-ways and noticed the color and the matted algae,” water supervisor Morgan Marler said. “We came out this morning and took a look at it and informed KDHE.”

People and pets should stay away from the pond, as an active algae bloom can lead to health hazards from coming into contact with the water or inhaling contaminated airborne droplets. Common effects include skin irritation and respiratory and intestinal problems, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Pets and livestock are particularly susceptible to algae toxins.

“They’ve had animals get sick at the reservoir, so people need to be aware of that,” Marler said.

Marion Reservoir and Marion County Lake routinely are tested for blue-green algae, but no such testing is done for the retention pond, Marler said. She and other employees are attuned to the characteristic color and makeup of algae blooms, and Marler said visual confirmation was sufficient. She said the problem occurs in cycles.

“We’ll see a big bloom and then it will all die off and everything will be OK for a while, then we’ll get another big bloom,” she said. “We know what it is, we’ve seen it, so we won’t be testing any level.”

KDHE offered to send someone to draw water samples for testing, but Marler declined, since the pond isn’t used for swimming and sees only limited fishing.

“The pond really isn’t designed for people to come around anyway,” Marler said. “It’s a retaining pond for drainage, but we do know people fish here occasionally, so we want to warn those people.”

Blue-green algae blooms often dissipate after a big rain, Marler said, but city workers were trying to give Mother Nature a hand Tuesday by flushing a nearby hydrant and directing the flow into the pond. As the pond was almost full and algae concentrated at one end, the hope was extra water would push the algae through a drainage are and into a ditch, where it would die, Marler said.

Given the recurrence of blooms, permanent caution signs will be placed at the pond, Marler said. Temporary ones were to go up if permanent ones weren’t ready Tuesday.

“We’ll have something out,” she said.

Last modified Aug. 26, 2015

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