Conditions Conducive to Harmful Algal Blooms in Lakes

Oakland County Health Division has issued a public health advisory that harmful algal blooms (HABs) may be present in lakes because of recent weather conditions. People and pets should exercise caution and avoid direct contact with water that appears scummy, looks like spilled paint, or has a green sheen to it. The scum may contain flecks, foam, or clumps.

Conditions Conducive to Harmful Algal Blooms in Lakes

Conditions Conducive to Harmful Algal Blooms in Lakes

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has notified the Health Division that it has identified HABs in White Lake Township’s Sugden Lake and Pontiac Lake in Waterford and White Lake townships.  The Health Division is posting caution signs at both lakes. Individuals should exercise caution even at lakes that do not have a posted advisory. For questions or to report potential HABs, call the MDEQ’s Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278.

“If you see algae, avoid direct contact with it and keep pets away as well,” said Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County Health Division. “Although algae are a natural presence in waterways, special precautions need to be followed to prevent illness.”

Dense populations of algae are called a bloom. Some blooms are harmless, but when the blooming organisms contain toxins it is known as HABs. HABs can produce conditions harmful to humans, pets, and aquatic life.

Take the following actions if a HAB is present: 

  • Do not drink untreated surface water, whether or not blooms are present. Remember, boiling the water will not remove the toxins.
  • Obey posted signs for public health advisories and/or beach closings.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play in or drink water where algae or scum is present.
  • Do not boat at high speeds, water-ski, or swim in areas of the lake where algal blooms are present. Avoid direct contact with the lake water or sprinklers.
  • Do not water lawns, gardens, or golf courses with water from HAB-impacted lakes or ponds because it aerosolizes the water.
  • Report unpleasant tastes or smells in your drinking water to the local water utility.
  • Individual property owners should not use algaecides to kill HABs because of the risk of releasing toxins directly into the water. Treatment requires a permit from the MDEQ.
  • Do not have direct contact with mussels or other bivalves (i.e., zebra mussels) from impacted areas.
  • Limit or avoid eating fish from impacted areas. If fish are consumed, eat only the filets – remove guts and liver and rinse filets in clean drinking water. Always follow the Eat Safe Fish waterbody-specific guidelines or Statewide Safe Fish Guidelines, even if a waterbody does not look impacted, available at www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish.

People and pets can experience the following symptoms after contact with a HAB:

 People and pets should exercise caution and avoid direct contact with water that appears scummy, looks like spilled paint, or has a green sheen to it

People and pets should exercise caution and avoid direct contact with water that appears scummy, looks like spilled paint, or has a green sheen to it

Skin contact may cause:

  • Rashes, hives, or skin blisters (especially on the lips and under swimsuits)

Breathing aerosolized (suspended water droplets) lake water mist from recreational activities and/or lawn watering can cause:

  • Runny eyes and noses
  • Sore throat
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Allergic reactions

Swallowing HAB contaminated water can cause:

  • Severe diarrhea/vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Abnormal liver function
  • Kidney toxicity
  • Weakness, salivation, tingly fingers, numbness, dizziness, difficulties breathing, or death

If you think you have been exposed to a HAB, take the following precautions:

  • Remove people from the exposure and seek medical treatment if symptoms occur.
  • Thoroughly rinse off pets with clean, fresh water if they swam in an area with a HAB. If they lick their fur after leaving the water, they may ingest large amounts of the toxin.
  • Seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible if you think your pet might have been poisoned by toxic HAB.

For more information, visit oakgov.com/health or find Public Health Oakland on Facebook and Twitter @publichealthOC.

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