Park officials in Oakland, California have closed down Lake Temescal to swimmers for a third straight year because of the proliferation of toxic blue-green algae in the water.
Despite being declared free from toxic materials in February following a spate of winter rains, officials from the East Bay Regional Park decided to close Lake Temescal on Monday, June 27, because of a recent outbreak of toxic algae.
The area has been known for its popular lifeguard training program, but the spread of blue-green algae has prevented the public from accessing the lake. Campers have also been forced to conduct their summer activities on grassy or sandy areas rather than run their usual swimming events.
Other lakes in the park district, such as Berkeley's Lake Anza, Castro Valley's Cull Canyon Lake, Livermore's Lake Del Valle, Hayward's Don Castro Lake and Antioch's Contra Loma Lake, are still accessible to swimmers.
People can also take a dip in the Quarry Lakes in Fremont, though dogs are not allowed to do so. The area's Shinn Pond, however, has also been closed down to swimmers.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), algae tend to grow faster and become thicker in warmer temperatures as these conditions typically prevent water from mixing properly.
Warm temperatures also cause algae to float to the surface at a much faster rate, allowing algal blooms to absorb sunlight and turn the water even warmer.
Dangers Of Toxic Algae Exposure
Algal blooms are not only deadly to aquatic animals living in affected bodies of water, but they can also be harmful to people and land animals as well.
Exposure to toxic algae, either by swimming in affected areas or ingesting contaminated water, can cause severe health issues including:
1. Skin rashes
2. Eye irritation
5. Stomach cramps
6. Respiratory problems
7. Neurological affects
Severe cases of algae poisoning can also lead to serious liver injury and even death in some patients.
People who have been exposed to high levels of algae toxins often require intensive hospital care in order to fully recover from the poisoning.
Removing Toxic Algae In Water Reservoirs
There are several ways government agencies can eliminate the presence of algal blooms in bodies of water. These include reducing the buildup of nutrients in reservoirs by employing better wastewater management and preventing agricultural runoffs, such as fertilizers, from reaching water sources.
Areas that may have already been affected by algal blooms may require treatment in order to remove the organisms and their toxins from the water.
Public health officials can also educate people about the dangers of toxic algae exposure to human and animal health.
Photo: Mark Sadowski | Flickr