Tests confirm toxic algae in Utah Lake; threat to humans, pets, wildlife

Posted at 2:15 PM, Oct 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-09 21:39:35-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Officials have just released the test results from the toxic blue-green algae suspected to be growing in parts of Utah Lake.

The results confirm elevated levels of the cyanotoxin from the algae in the lake.

Researchers took water samples from the Lindon Harbor Jetty for the tests.

The toxin can cause liver damage among other issues and poses a threat to humans, pets and wildlife.

Related: Dog dies after exposed to toxic blue-green algae in Utah Lake

“It is very difficult to predict and assess harmful algae blooms,” Walt Baker said, director of the Division of Water Quality. “But what we can control is one of the major contributing factors to algae blooms; nutrients, principally phosphorus.”

Officials said elevated levels of nutrients in the water, combined with warm temperatures, abundant sunlight and calm water, can lead to rapid growth of the bright-green blooms.

“In Utah Lake, 75 percent of the phosphorus loading comes from the wastewater treatment plants which discharge into the lake,” Baker said. “Reducing nutrient loading to our lakes and streams is our top priority and we are implementing these reductions through our Utah Nutrient Strategy.”

He said environmental scientists from the DWQ are continuing to take samples to test for the presence of cyanotoxins in other areas in and around the lake.

The Utah County Health Department and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have issued warnings to swimmers, boaters, anglers and hunters to avoid areas with bright-green algal growth.

If you are concerned about your exposure to water or algae, officials said you should contact the Utah Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 or your medical care provider.

Symptoms of cyanotoxin poisoning include headache, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and sometimes allergic-like reactions from skin contact.

The bloom at Utah Lake is not an isolated incident.

“Until we reduce the phosphorous and nitrogen loads into our lakes and streams, we will continue to see increasing numbers of algal blooms, not just in Utah Lake, but other areas of the state as well,” Baker said. “Some of these blooms may be toxic. We need to work together as a state to invest in the changes necessary to protect public health and our precious water resources from this pollution.”