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Reservoir warning lifted, but advisory remains

For the first time in four weeks, Marion Reservoir is not under a warning for toxic blue-green algae.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment downgraded its warning to an advisory Thursday. The advisory was based on tests performed Monday.

The warning had been in effect since June 28. Before that, an advisory, which is less serious, had been in effect May 31 through June 21. Only one week this summer has not seen either a warning or a less serious advisory at the reservoir.

Under a blue-green algae advisory, reservoir facilities are open. Although water activities like boating and fishing are considered safe, direct contact with water by wading or swimming remains strongly discouraged for people, pets and livestock.

KDHE recommends that if reservoir water contacts human or animal skin, the area should be washed with clean drinking water as soon as possible.

Fish caught during an outbreak are safe to eat if they are rinsed with clean water and if only the fillet is eaten, KDHE advises. Anglers should wash their hands with clean water after handling fish caught during an outbreak.

Other lakes with blue-green algae warnings are Chisholm Creek North Lake, Sedgwick County; Harvey County East Lake, Harvey County; Logan City Lake, Phillips County; Memorial/Veterans Lake, Barton County; and South Lake Park, Johnson County. Marion Reservoir is the only lake to drop off the warning list this week.

Other lakes on less severe blue-green algae advisories are the northern portion of Milford Reservoir; Atchison County Park Lake; Brown County State Fishing Lake; Centralia Lake, Nemaha County; Deanna Rose Farmstead, Johnson County; and Scott State Park, Scott County.

Blue-green algae, which also can be reddish purple or brown, are simple, naturally occurring aquatic plants — technically, bacterial plankton, not algae. When nutrient and light levels are especially high, they reproduce rapidly in what is called a bloom, creating what often is referred to as “pond scum.”

Some blooms are harmless and merit no warnings or advisories, but others potentially contain toxins that can be released when the blue-green algae are killed. Toxins vary with the species of blue-green algae. Most have relatively minor effects, but some — such as anabaena — can be lethal.

Health effects occur when surface scum or water containing high levels of toxins is swallowed, contacts the skin or is inhaled as airborne droplets.

Most people have “allergic”-type reactions such as intestinal problems, respiratory problems, or skin irritations. However, symptoms of the extremely fast-acting neurotoxin can include coordination loss, paralysis, muscle twitching, shortness of breath, and even death.

Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody all get their drinking water from Marion Reservoir. State and local officials emphasize that costly improvements at treatment facilities make it highly unlikely that neurotoxins from a bloom could make their way into municipal drinking water.

Last modified July 27, 2012

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