Officials say don’t go into Utah Lake as crews test for toxic algae bloom

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 00:11:16-04

UTAH LAKE -- Don't go in the water. That's what the state is telling people about Utah Lake after the discovery of a large algae bloom.

Spencer Jorgensen of Orem didn't realize there was a warning about getting in the water until he had already come to shore after a long day of boating with his family at Provo Bay.

"I think if it's a big enough concern and we're covering it on the news, that we should probably have people walking around telling people that maybe it's not a great idea," Jorgensen said.

The Jorgensens were swimming in the same area where potentially toxic algae blooms have been spotted, along the eastern shore, from Provo Bay to Provo Harbor.

"A little bit concerned, just a little," said Kristen Jorgensen. "I wouldn't want anyone to get sick from being exposed to it."

The Department of Environmental Quality is collecting samples along a two-mile radius to determine if there are toxins in the bloom and how strong those toxins may be.

"This particular bloom in Utah Lake is so dense and concentrated you can kind of see the algae piling up on the surface of the water," said Erica Gaddis of the Division of Water Quality.

If found toxic, this algae can pose significant health risks to people, animals and fish. Despite these risks, Jane Stewart of Provo had no concerns going paddle boarding.

"I'm being careful, I'm not splashing around, I'm not trying to ingest any of it, I'm just riding my board out, seeing how deep it is and coming back in," Stewart said.

The DEQ says those most vulnerable to the algae are children and pets.

"Dogs will get in the water and actually drink the water, where adults typically don't do that," Gaddis said. "Kids, when they are splashing around and playing, can sometimes ingest more water, especially relative to their body weight."

Tyler Layton had kids and a dog on his boat.

"The areas where the wind will blow it up to the sides, you wouldn't want the dog drinking that, but the rest of it's fine," Layton said.

Layton said he had no problem with his children diving into the water.

"People are panicking, it's fear based, I don't see any reason to be fear based: It looks pretty fine," he said.

The DEQ said they won't know for sure if the water is safe until the algae tests come back on Friday.

If it is toxic, it can cause everything from skin rashes, to headaches, to fever to vomiting.

"Toxic sounds bad; if it's toxic surely we would want to take more precautions," Kristen Jorgensen said.