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Lake, reservoir under algae warnings

Staff writer

If it’s May, it must be blue-green algae time.

As seems to happen every year around this time, Marion Reservoir and Marion County Lake officially were placed under blue-green algae warnings Friday.

Four other bodies of water in the state were placed under warnings or less serious watches. The nearest is Harvey County East Lake. The others are in Atchison, Shawnee, and Jewell Counties.

Blue-green algae, whose blooms typically are related to sunny, warm weather and runoff from nitrogen-treated farmland, were detected in Marion County as early as last weekend.

Except in dire situations, state warnings and watches are issued and updated only at week’s end.

An algae warning is the second most serious algae advisory.

According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment, it means a harmful algae bloom is expected or present.

A warning requires that signs be posted at all public access locations.

Water is considered unsafe for humans and animals.

Visitors should avoid all contact with water, including inhalation of spray or aerosolized water that might occur in such activities as water skiing.

Pets should not be allowed to eat dried algae or drink contaminated water.

Fish caught still may be eaten, but they must be cleaned with potable drinking water, and only the fillet portion may be consumed.

Blue-green algae, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, appear as scum on the water or, in some cases, as sludge below the surface.

It’s not the bacteria themselves that are dangerous but rather invisible toxins emitted when they are crushed and die.

Varied species emit diverse types and levels of toxins.

Toxins’ effects can range from mild rashes to vomiting, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, and headache all the way up to potentially lethal damage to the central nervous system.

The species anabaena, for example, produces both microcystin, which produces less severe symptoms, and anatoxin-a, which can have serious neurological effects.

Anatoxin-a, discovered only in the 1960s, has negligible impact if it contacts the skin but can live up to its informal name — Very Fast Death Factor — if ingested.

Extensive and time-consuming sampling and laboratory examinations are needed to determine precisely which toxins exist at which levels.

Warnings and watches tend to be issued as a precaution even before the specific toxins involved are known and quantified.

Dogs, birds, and livestock rather than humans typically are most likely to be affected.

Marion, Hillsboro, Peabody, and Marion County Lake all draw their drinking water from Marion Reservoir.

Water plant operators reassure that treatment procedures for those communities remove any toxins from blue-green algae. Municipal water, therefore, is unaffected by the algae warning.

Last modified May 18, 2024

 

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