Hazardous blue-green algae not yet a concern on Lake Max

Making the rounds in regional news and local social media of late has been discussion and concern over the presence of blue-green algae in nearby lakes, and whether the potentially harmful blooms could affect Lake Maxinkuckee waters.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, "blue-green algae blooms have the potential to cause health problems in humans and animals," including "rashes, skin and eye irritation, nausea, stomach aches, and tingling fingers and toes."

Two dogs, in fact, died and two others were sickened last week after swimming in a cove at Salamonie Lake in northeast Indiana, with symptoms suggesting blue-green algae toxicity may have been the cause.

Blue-green algae blooms, notes the DNR, "are a seasonal occurrence in some Indiana waters, fueled by summer heat, sunlight and fertilizer runoff from lawns and farms. Drought and low water levels in lakes and reservoirs can increase blue-green algae quantities and/or toxins."

Kathy Clark, director of the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, acknowledges that "almost every lake has some blue-green algae, Lake Max included."

The Marshall County health department has just asked that all county lakes, including Maxinkuckee, be tested for blue-green algae. As yet, Lake Maxinkuckee has not made the DNR's list of likely spots with the algae, and as yet there's no evidence of major contamination. Clark notes many pet owners report their dogs swimming regularly in the lake with no side effects, though she urges swimmers and pet owners to "watch out for the scum!"

If high levels of algae or toxins are documented during the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management's testing, a notice will be posted at algae.IN.gov and caution notices placed in those locations until algae cell counts return to safe levels.

Boaters, swimmers and dog owners are cautioned by the IDNR to avoid ingesting lake water; avoid contact with algae blooms, which generally appear as a scum on the water surface; shower with soapy water after swimming; bring clean water for your dog to drink on hikes or other outings; keep dogs close and on a leash, and bathe your dog with soapy water as soon as possible after a swim.

Blue-green alga is most often found in shallow water or coves and bays where water movement is limited, notes the DNR.