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Algae mucks up state park swimming

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:45 am

RED HOUSE — Small blooms of toxic blue-green algae have been reported again this summer in Red House Lake at Allegany State Park, and park personnel are monitoring it daily.

“We’re keeping an eye on it,” Allegany Region Manager Brad Whitcomb said Tuesday. “We’ve had some days when the blue-green algae has been spotted on Red House Lake. We’ve put up signs to warn the public.”

One afternoon earlier this month, lifeguards at Red House Beach noticed what they suspected was blue-green algae, which can be toxic, and ordered swimmers out of the water and closed the beach for the rest of the day.

According to the state health department, “Blue-green algae can become very abundant in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that receives a lot of sunlight. When this occurs, they can form blooms that discolor the water or produce floating rafts or scum on the surface of the water.”

The health department website adds: “Consuming water containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins has been associated with effects on the liver and on the nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock and people. Livestock and pet deaths have occurred when animals consumed very large amounts of accumulated algal scum from along shorelines.”

Whitcomb said park officials are focused on the swimming area.

“We had to close the beach one day after the lifeguards saw some of the blue-green algae floating into the swimming area. It doesn’t seem to be too prevalent this year. We don’t seem to be having any big blooms.”

“Last year,” Whitcomb added, “we had a couple of larger blooms on certain days. We check the lake daily. Quaker Lake doesn’t seem to have the problem. We have also found it at the Friends Boat Launch on the Allegheny Reservoir.”

Red House Lake is shallower and warmer, which is more conducive to the algae blooms.

Whitcomb said people should look at the water before playing fetch with their dog in Red House Lake simply because the blue-green algae, which can appear luminous or look like a fluorescent green, has been found there. Dogs playing in the lake is still a daily occurrence, he said, and in the absence of a large algae bloom, is generally safe.

The first indications of blue-green algae in Red House Lake this year was the presence of small dime- to quarter-sized pieces of algae along the edge of the lake.

“It’s not a bloom, but an indication that the potential is there for a bloom,” Whitcomb said.

“The lifeguards are keeping a watchful eye on the lake. We haven’t found a lot of it in the lake in the last week or so, but we still had it in the reservoir last week.”

As such, park officials are asking visitors to be careful.

“We want people to be careful,” Whitcomb said. “There is the potential for these blooms. We post signs around the lake and at the rental office. People don’t need to keep their pets out of the water. They can still come and fish and do things they normally do.

“This is more an awareness issue. It hasn’t been bad this year, but we keep monitoring it.”

If someone spots what they think is a blue-green algae bloom, they should alert park officials, according to Whitcomb.

“If you see any signs of the blue-green algae, you certainly don’t want your dog or someone else to get into it.”

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