Toxic algae bloom closes Utah Lake; at least 8 recent visitors report feeling ill

Posted at 9:27 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 23:27:32-04

UTAH LAKE -- For the first time ever, Utah Lake has been completely closed down and it's due to toxic algae.

"I don't think that Utah Lake, actually the entire lake, has been shut down, I think that is something that is unprecedented," said Donna Kemp Spangler of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Utah Lake State Park confirms eight people who have recently been in the lake are reporting illnesses.

According to recent test results from the Utan Department of Health, the algae levels in Utah Lake are three times stronger than levels the World Health Organization considers safe. This news prompted the shutdown.

"Test results are test results, they are coming back toxic," said Jason Allen of Utah Lake State Park. "We turned away at least a half-dozen boats, a handful of people who just wanted to go out on the beach, and the look of shock and disappointment."

According to The Department of Environmental Quality, the bloom has taken over 90 percent of the lake, but 70 percent of it is hidden below the surface.

Joe Arave's entire business is renting paddle boards. He had 60 reserved for this weekend, which is a problem when you're not allowed on the water.

"They made the reservations weeks ago, so we've had them in our books, so calling them and the first words out of my mouth are, 'Hold on I have to forewarn you the lake here is closed,' of course you hear a big gasp," said Arave, owner of Utah Paddle Board Rental and Sales.

Arave is now forced to get his clients to surrounding waterways.

"We're delivering things to Deer Creek, to Jordanelle, to Strawberry," Arave said. "Typically I would charge more money to take the time to deliver, you know, it's an hour up to Deer Creek and an hour back."

The Tough Man Utah Half Triathlon was also scheduled for Utah Lake this weekend. It's now been downsized to a biathlon.

"Without the swim it's still a good race, but you train for three sports and when you can only do two it is disappointing for sure," said participant Kelly Konopa.

However, Konopa admits, even if the swimming portion wasn't canceled there was no way she was diving in that water.

"I just don't want to get sick," Konopa said.

There is no timetable as to when the lake will reopen. The state will continue to test the algae on a daily basis