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Health District finds toxic algae in Long Lake

A recent advisory issued by the Kitsap County Health District to warn Long Lake users about a potentially toxic bloom is not necessarily a sign that recent treatments at the lake are not working, but rather proof that they need to be continued, an official said.

“This episodic bloom is not necessarily a reflection of a decline in the effectiveness of the management efforts to date, but rather a reminder that more work is still needed,” said Harry Gibbons, a scientist with Tetra Tech, an environmental engineering company hired to bring the bacteria-choked lake back to health.

Tetra Tech has been working closely with Citizens for Improving Long Lake (CILL) for the past two years, both regularly treating and testing the water. Since the group began regulating the amount of phosphorus and therefore reducing toxic cyanobacteria blooms in the water, residents have noticed dramatic changes in the lake, which soon lost its distinctive green hue.

However, on Aug. 9, Shawn Ultican of the health district’s Water Quality Program said his department collected samples of potentially toxic algae at the park’s public fishing access.

“The bloom appears to be predominantly Anabaena, with some Microcystis, (which) are two species of freshwater algae that can potentially produce toxic compounds,” Ultican explained in an e-mail alerting Gibbons to the findings.

After the blooms were identified, the health district issued a public advisory warning nearby residents and lake visitors that the blue-green algae or cyanobacteria known as Anabaena had been detected in the lake.

According to Ultican, the algae can “potentially produce toxins which, if ingested, can make people sick and kill fish, waterfowl, pets and livestock.”

For the time being, anyone near or on the lake is advised to avoid ingesting any water, cease swimming or other activities in the lake, and limit pets’ and other animals’ access to the lake, the advisory states. Also, any fish caught in the lake should be cleaned immediately and their internal organs discarded, and boaters should rinse their vessels and trailers before going to another lake.

Gibbons said in his e-mail response that he believed the latest algal bloom would be “relatively short-lived and confined to areas where the cyanobacteria are blown into.”

He also predicted that another cyanobacteria bloom would occur “when the aquatic plants decline this fall.”

The health district explained that cyanobacteria reproduce rapidly in fresh water when the sun, temperature and nutrients available are ideal. In just a few days, a “clear” lake can become cloudy and discolored with algae growth, which is known as a “bloom”. During which, the cyanobacteria usually float to the surface, looking like bright green paint floating on the surface of the water that can be several inches thick near the shoreline.

The health district asks lake shoreline residents to look for blue-green algae blooms in any local lakes and call (360) 337-5235 when blooms are observed.

They are also advised to call if any of these conditions occur:

• Large numbers of dead fish in the lake.

• Sudden or unexplained sickness or death of a pet cat or dog.

• A lake user experiences skin rash, dizziness or weakness, respiratory allergy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.

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