by Sandy Johnson
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently issued a Blue-Green Algae Advisory for Mississinewa Lake after samplings showed a level of blue-green algae high enough to warrant an alert. With the advisory, swimming and boating is still permitted.
Larry Brown, Mississinewa DNR Manager, advises visitors, “Do not drink the water, and shower after swimming.”
When an advisory is issued, pet owners should refrain from allowing their pets into the water where algae are present. Pets are more vulnerable to getting sick after swimming in lake waters because they tend to lick their fur clean, allowing the bacteria to enter their bodies.
Brown works together with Cyndi Wagner from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), who supervises the testing for Mississinewa Lake and other Indiana lakes.
Brown told The Paper, “We have done a good job with communication and letting people know about the advisory. We have signs on beaches, and at boat ramps.”
Brown confirmed samplings would continue weekly until the blue-green algae levels drop. Mississinewa was scheduled for further testing on June 30. Results from the samplings should be documented by the next day.
Currently, Mississinewa is the only lake with an alert in the state. The IDEM and DNR continue to work together to keep everyone informed. If high levels of blue-green algae are found during IDEM testing on any Indiana lake, a notice is posted at algae.IN.gov and alert notices are placed on those beaches until cell counts drop to a safe level. State parks and reservoir websites also include ‘property advisories’ to keep the public informed before heading out onto the waters.
Algae have been in the water for a very long time, but samplings from lakes, beaches, and reservoirs have only been tested for the last few years. As the weather warms up and people take to the beaches and lakes, the samplings begin, too. These tests are not to scare the public but to inform them.
Blue-green algae; also know as cyanobacteria are particularly a concern because it is often linked to adverse health issues. Fueled by heat, sunlight and fertilizer runoff from lawns and farms, algal growth is a naturally occurring process. For an advisory to be issued samplings would show a low cell count of blue-green algae present in the water.
Once levels test positive for blue-green algae and an advisory is issued, there is nothing that can be done to lower the levels. Therefore, weekly samplings are necessary to monitor the cell counts. Eventually the algae dissipate and float to the bottom.
If blue-green algae levels increase, the state can close beaches or issue a caution. This would mean children and people with compromised auto immune systems would have to refrain from swimming in the lake.
Two years ago, Salamonie reservoir had high levels of blue-green algae in centralized locations. During that time, it was believed but not confirmed that two dogs died after spending time swimming and romping in the water with blue-green algae the cause. This year, however, Salamonie has not tested positive for blue-green algae.
A blue-green algae advisory does not mean the public must avoid that lake or beach all together. Public awareness is key. Taking necessary precautions such as avoiding direct contact with blue-green algae is important as well. The DNR and IDEM schedule samplings as a proactive measure to keep the public informed and safe. Prior to heading out to the beach this summer, the public can remain informed by checking with lakes and beaches before visiting them and by going online to state government sites to note where alerts are posted.