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Looking out for blue-green algae on Madison lakes

By Dannika Lewis,
Published On: Jul 10 2013 08:03:39 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 12 2013 03:14:12 PM CDT

The blue-green algae doesn’t seem as aggressive on Madison lakes, but that doesn’t mean Public Health Madison and Dane County isn’t keeping a close eye on blooms.

Water from city and county beaches’ is tested at least once a week. Lucas Treutel was in charge of collecting those samples Wednesday.

Some shores have been shut down to swimmers because of high bacteria levels, but Treutel has not seen much blue-green algae yet this season.

“It's been pretty mild this summer,” Treutel said.

Werner Beach was shut down for a large bloom earlier this week, but was reopened once the algae left that part of the lake.

With or without the department shutting down the beaches, Treutel said its hard to miss the potentially toxic algae. If the blue tint doesn’t tip swimmers off and turn them away, the odor usually does.

“Just getting a whiff of it,” Treutel said, “you wouldn't want to go on that beach.”

Treutel said humans can get rashes if they digest blue-green algae, and it could be fatal to animals. A couple of dog deaths in the Madison area have been linked to the algae, so Treutel said its important to heed the warnings you may see posted near the lake shores. In addition, he suggested using your best judgment before getting into the water.

“If you see excessive algae or conditions look questionable, it’s best just to stay away,” Treutel said.

Heavy rains and high winds can trigger bloom growth or push the algae from one spot to another on the lake. Treutel said those factors make it nearly impossible to track.

“It's less predictable than the weather even,” Treutel said.

Treutel said Public Health is constantly compiling data to try and pinpoint optimal conditions for blue-green algae in an attempt to prevent it.

You can check here for more information on beach closures and blue-green algae.

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