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Harmful algal bloom warning issued for part of Utah Lake

Utah Lake on ‘warning’ level over harmful algal bloom
Posted at 5:39 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 19:46:49-04

PROVO, Utah — Health officials have issued a harmful algal bloom warning for Utah Lake's Provo Bay.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality reported Friday that toxigenic cyanobacteria cell counts were two times the threshold for a "Warning Advisory."

The state, as well as the Utah County Health Department, said the Provo Marina is still safe to use for personal watercraft, but recreators should avoid being in the water in the Provo Bay area.

Although algae occurs naturally in bodies of water, large amonts of cyanobacteria can create harmful algal blooms (HABs). They are often detected in Utah Lake and other bodies of water during the summer.

HABs can be harmful to humans and have even killed pets at least twice in the past year in Utah -- one at Mantua Reservoir and another in Zion National Park. Both happened in the summer of 2020.

On its website, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality provides the following tips for staying safe during algal bloom season:

If you suspect a harmful algal bloom

  • Don’t swim in water that appears to have a harmful algal bloom.
  • Don’t boat, water ski, or jet-ski on scummy water. These activities can cause toxins to become airborne, increasing the likelihood you will inhale them.
  • Don’t let children play with scum in the water or along the shore.
  • Don’t let pets or livestock swim in or drink from scummy waters.
  • When in doubt, stay out.

Every time you go out

  • Don’t swallow water when swimming.
  • Shower after coming into contact with recreational water.
  • Rinse animals immediately if they swim in recreational water.
  • Wash hands with clean water before eating or preparing food.
  • Clean fish well and discard the guts.
  • Never drink recreational water. Recreational water may contain bacteria, parasites, or viruses, as well as cyanotoxins, that could cause illness if ingested.
  • Do not boil water in an attempt to remove toxins, as boiling actually releases more toxins.
  • Wash dishes with clean water. Do not use recreational water.
  • When in doubt, stay out.

How to recognize a harmful algal bloom
Harmful algal blooms may look like pea soup, green or blue paint, or have a scum layer or mats/foam floating on the surface. The water may also appear in shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown, or red. Visit the HABs Photo Gallery for examples of blooms in Utah.

How to report an exposure
Call the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) at (800) 222-1222 if you think you or your pet have been exposed to a harmful algal bloom. UPCC physicians, pharmacists, and nurses trained in toxicology can answer your questions and advise you on the need for further medical or veterinary treatment.

Symptoms of human exposure

  • Rashes, hives, or blisters from skin contact
  • Runny nose, sore throat, asthma, or allergic-like reactions from breathing in droplets from contaminated water
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, weakness, tingling, dizziness, or trouble breathing from swallowing contaminated water

Symptoms of animal exposure

  • Weakness
  • Staggering
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions