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Public Health Advisories for Kansas Lakes Due to Blue-Green Algae

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By Kansas Department of Health and Environment 

 

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) have issued a public health advisory update due to blue-green algae.

The water recreation season in Kansas officially runs from April 1 to October 31, as do the harmful algae blooms (HAB) response program’s active operations. This year, the season ends with some water bodies still on active advisory. These advisories will be lifted in consultation with lake managers when blooms have dissipated. However, we know that risks may extend past the recreation season, for example, for hunting dogs. Kansans should remain vigilant year-round.

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) may look like foam, scum or paint floating on the water and be colored blue, bright green, brown or red. Blooms can develop rapidly; if the water appears suspicious or there is decaying algae on the shore, avoid contact and keep dogs away. These toxins can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation of aerosols and even skin contact. Symptoms vary depending upon the type of exposure (e.g. direct contact, ingestion, inhalation) but can include rash, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, and headache. If you, or your dog, come into contact with algae rinse the area with clean, fresh water. Suspected HAB-related health incidents, whether human or animal, regardless of season, should be reported at kdhe.ks.gov/1163.

Active Advisories

Warning

  • Amesbury Lake, Johnson County
  • Big Eleven Lake, Wyandotte County
  • Frazier Lake, Grant County
  • Harvey County East Lake, Harvey County
  • Lake Afton, Sedgwick County
  • South Lake (Overland Park), Johnson County

Watch

  • Fossil Lake, Russell County (Lowered November 2)

Lifted

  • Lovewell Lake, Jewell County (Lifted November 2)

The state of Kansas recognizes three advisory levels:

Hazard status indicates that a harmful algal bloom is present, and extreme conditions exist.

  • Signage should be posted at all public access locations.
  • It is recommended that either a portion of the lake or the entire lake or zone, be closed to the public.
  • In some cases, the adjacent land should be closed as well. Actual setback distances will be determined on a site-specific basis, if necessary.
  • When partial closures (i.e., beach or cove) are issued, the remaining lake or zone area will carry a warning status.

Warning status indicates that conditions are unsafe for human and pet exposure. Contact with the waterbody should be avoided.

When a warning is issued, KDHE recommends the following precautions be taken:

  • Signage should be posted at all public access locations.
  • Inhalation of spray or aerosols may be harmful.
  • Lake water is not safe to drink for pets or livestock.
  • Lake water, regardless of blue-green algae status, should never be consumed by humans.
  • Water contact should be avoided.
  • Fish may be eaten if they are rinsed with clean water and only the fillet portion is consumed, while all other parts are discarded.
  • Do not allow pets to eat dried algae.
  • If lake water contacts skin, wash with clean water as soon as possible.
  • Avoid areas of visible algae accumulation.

Watch status means that blue-green algae have been detected and a harmful algal bloom is present or likely to develop. People are encouraged to avoid areas of algae accumulation and keep pets and livestock away from the water.

During the watch status, KDHE recommends the following precautions be taken:

  • Signage should be posted at all public access locations.
  • Water may be unsafe for humans/animals.
  • Avoid areas of algae accumulation and do not let people/pets eat dried algae or drink contaminated water.
  • Swimming, wading, skiing and jet skiing are discouraged near visible blooms.
  • Boating and fishing are safe. However, inhalation of the spray may affect some individuals. Avoid direct contact with water, and wash with clean water after any contact.
  • Clean fish well with potable water and eat fillet portion only.

Advisories are Lifted when cell densities and toxin concentrations dissipate to levels below the Watch thresholds.

KDHE investigates publicly accessible bodies of water for blue-green algae when the agency receives reports of potential algae blooms in Kansas lakes. Based on credible field observation and sampling results, KDHE reports on potentially harmful conditions.

If you observe a scum or paint-like surface on the water, small floating blue-green clumps or filaments in the water, or if the water is an opaque green, avoid contact and keep pets away. These are indications that a harmful bloom may be present. Pet owners should be aware that animals that swim in or drink water affected by a harmful algal bloom or eat dried algae along the shore may become seriously ill or die.

For information on blue-green algae and reporting potential harmful algal blooms, please visit kdhe.ks.gov/HAB and check out our interactive story.