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State warns against harmful algal blooms during heat wave

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 7:56 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - As we continue to see higher temperatures, those who are looking to cool off with a swim outdoors may have to wait.

The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality is asking residents to report developing signs of harmful algae blooms that have been appearing in lakes across the state.

The department has issued 16 advisories on lakes across the state that contain harmful algal blooms and produce what are known as cyanotoxins, which may pose a threat to humans and pets.

The department said contact with high amounts of these toxins can cause you to become sick with diarrhea and vomiting, or experience other side effects like rashes, hives or skin blisters.

Under current advisories or those with low levels, you can still swim and participate in water activities provided you rinse thoroughly and are careful not to swallow the water.

“We have 11 lakes that we’ve sampled that were low, but those also could change. If we get another week of hot weather, it could ramp up and bring those right back to an advisory or even a warning level,” said Jim Collins, Jr., an environmental scientist with the Division of Water Quality.

Blooms can last through fall unless cooler temperatures or an increase of freshwater cut them short.

Collins said the lakes are being monitored every one to two weeks to keep track of toxin levels.

Collins said Rice Lake has been cleared as safe to swim in with low levels of toxins present, but that could change.

He said environmental scientists will continue to monitor the water, but you should use your best judgment before jumping in.

According to the state, there is no known antidote for the toxins, and children and pets are at a higher risk of illness due to their smaller size.

You can keep track of current investigations here and report algal blooms in your area here.

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