Additional information from Dr. Pullman 

Blue Green Algae Part 1:  Why All the Concern?

Blue green algae blooms are becoming increasingly common in Michigan.  Blooms can appear as though green latex paint has been spilled on the water, or resemble an oil slick in enclosed bays or along leeward shores.  Blue green algae blooms are usually temporal events and may disappear as rapidly as they appear.  Blue green algae blooms are becoming more common for a variety of reasons; however, the spread and impact of the zebra mussels has been closely associated with blooms of blue green algae according to MSU researchers.

Blue green algae really a form of bacteria known as the cyanobacteria.  They are becoming an important issue for lake managers, riparian property owners and lake users because studies have revealed that substances made and released into the water by some of these nuisance algae (cyanobacteria) can be toxic or carcinogenic.  They are known to have negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems can potentially poison and sicken pets, livestock, and wildlife.  Blue green algae and can have both direct and indirect negative impacts on fisheries. Persons can be exposed to the phytotoxins by ingestion or dermal absorption (through the skin).  They can also be exposed to toxins by inhalation of aerosols created by overhead irrigation, strong winds, and boating activity.  Studies are in progress to determine how serious the potential risks are to lake users and those exposed to blue green algae tainted water by other means. 

An invasive, exotic blue green alga has recently been found in Michigan.  Cylindro is also capable of producing phytotoxins and has been implicated in some public health incidents in Florida.  Work groups in Indiana and Wisconsin have not reported similar incidents in their respective states.  Unfortunately cylindro blooms are not obvious and the water must be sampled and analyzed to detect their presence.

It is estimated that approximately one half of obvious blue green algae blooms contain phytotoxins. Water resource managers and users are urged to not panic, but remain pre-cautious.  Until studies are completed, it is recommended that persons not swim in waters where blue green algae blooms are conspicuously present.  Specifically persons should avoid contact with water where blooms appear as though green latex paint has been spilled on the water, or where the water in enclosed bays appears to be covered by an “oil slick”.  Pets should be prevented from drinking from tainted water.  Because the blue green algae toxins can enter the human body through the lungs as aerosols it is suggested that water where there are obvious blue green algae blooms not be used for irrigation of areas where persons may be exposed to the irrigation water. Blue green algae blooms are usually temporal events and may disappear as rapidly as they appear, so it is important to closely monitor lakes that contain occasional or persistent blue green algae blooms. 

Fortunately, blue green algae can be easily controlled by a variety of methods.  There is increasing evidence that the blue green algae can be targeted specifically with certain algaecides.  These strategies could help lake managers to selectively manage and improve suspended algae communities.  The MI DEQ does not permit these treatments, so lake users are advised to use caution when entering blue green tainted water or scums.


Lobdell Lake – Blue-green Algae Alert

Blue-green algae has been found on the lake, having the appearance of a light green scum and streaks of spilled paint. Blue-green algae is actually a bacteria called cyanobacteria that is natural and common in many lakes. When conditions are right, such as plenty of nutrients, warm temperatures, plenty of sunlight, and relatively calm conditions, the blue-green algae can bloom. Unfortunately, these bacteria can produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick when swallowed, and dogs are especially susceptible.

A lake resident noticed what appeared to be streaks of spilled paint on the lake and contacted the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality). DEQ collected samples and found them to contain toxins. People and their pets should not come in contact with scums in the water, water that looks like spilled paint, or water that looks green. Unless the bloom covers a large portion of the lake, people can limit their exposure by using an unaffected part of the lake. 

The positive tests were located on a small section of shoreline in the lake but everyone should be on the lookout for signs of the algae before entering the water or allowing pets in the lake. The appearance of blue-green algae is not unusual in the summer and fall and has been appearing in a growing number of Michigan lakes. You should be on the lookout for the presence of visible algae or scums on any lake.

Humans can have an allergic reaction to the algae when it contacts their skin. If you need to enter the water where algae is present, rinse off as soon as possible. Dogs which come in contact with lake water should be rinsed off as soon as possible as well.

If you, your children, or your animals become sick after contact, call your doctor or veterinarian.

The algae was sampled on October 10th, 2017 and looked similar to the picture below:

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