Harmful Bacteria Strikes More ND Lakes
BISMARCK – The number of lakes in North Dakota showing evidence of harmful algae blooms is on the rise. Currently the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has posted Water Advisories for 13 lakes, a Water Warning for another, with the likelihood of more being added in the days and weeks ahead.
“Temperatures are starting to warm up. Rainfall totals are starting to decrease a little bit. We’re setting ourselves up for some pretty good algal blooms,” said Emily Lechenmeier, Environmental Quality.
Hot temperatures, calm winds, and poor water quality are all factors surrounding outbreaks of algae. Of particular concern is the presence of blue-green algae, a harmful cyanobacteria. It can cause significant problems.
“It’s definitely something that can cause health issues. Typically, humans don’t have major symptoms related to it — skin rashes, itching, upset stomachs,” said Lechenmeier. “We do warn that pets are very susceptible to toxins produced by harmful algal blooms. Within 48 hours it can lead to death in pets.”
Livestock is also vulnerable to cyanobacteria which has proven fatal to cattle drinking from a contaminated source.
This year reports of algae blooms around the state, primarily reported by “citizen scientists”, began much earlier than in previous years.
“Last year our first report was about the 4th of July. This year it was the first week of June,” stated Lechenmeier.
Algae outbreaks are usually associated with hot weather. However, with July being cooler than expected over much of the state, the rate of algae outbreaks slowed. Now, with the hot days of August yet to come, more algae blooms can be expected.
Environmental Quality does some routine monitoring of lakes throughout the state, testing for harmful algae, but mostly on highly recreated lakes that exhibited harmful algae blooms in previous years.
Also, reminds Lechenmeier, Environmental Quality has an on-line reporting tool which makes it easy for the public to report concerns using their cell phones.
Lakes that have been tested and confirmed to contain amounts of algae that could be harmful to people, pets, and livestock are posted as such by Environmental Quality. A green sign is used for informational purposes, an orange sign for a Water Advisory that blue-green algae may be present, and a red Water Warning sign urging people to avoid contact with that body of water.
North Dakota lakes in the Water Advisory category are Lake Darling in Renville County, Green Lake, Homme Dam, Epping-Springbrook Dam, Alkali Lake, Lake LaMoure, Harvey Dam, West Lake, Bowman-Haley Dam, Harmon Lake, Lake Tschida, Jamestown Reservoir, and Silver Lake. Froelich Dam was recently elevated to being included in a Water Warning.
For the most recent advisories and warnings, or to report a suspected outbreak of algae, go to deq.nd.gov.