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Toxic blue-green algae at Pomme de Terre Lake brings caution among campers

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:33 PM CDT
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HERMITAGE, Mo. (KY3) - If you’re planning on heading out to one particular Ozarks lake this summer, you should be aware of a dangerous substance in the water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found blue-green algae at Pomme de Terre Lake.

Despite the toxic algae, people in the area say the lake was busy and campgrounds were packed for Memorial Day weekend.

Richard Avery heard about blue-green algae, but it didn’t deter him and his family from their planned getaway this week. But the Averys are taking some precautions.

“The kids have been playing on the kayaks and stuff in the water,” Avery says. “We’ve just been watching and being vigilant on not letting them actually get in the water and swim.”

In mid May, the US Army Corps of Engineers found an algae bloom near the dam was producing a dangerous level of cyanobacteria toxins. Last week, they tested the water at the Wheatland and Nemo swim beaches and found blue-green algae, but in low levels, so the beaches were not closed. But warning signs are posted at the beaches and campgrounds.

“I didn’t really even read anything on it until we seen it up at the bathrooms and shower house and read that it can basically make you nauseous, diarrhea, all a bunch of stuff that you really don’t want to have,” says Avery.

The Corps says the algae can be bright green or create a scum or paint-like surface. It’s especially dangerous for pets and small children.

“They do not take visual cues, and they are not deterred by green water,” says Marvin Boyer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water quality program coordinator. “They can drink large volumes of it, the toxin, especially compared to their body weight.”

The blue-green algae is caused by nutrients in runoff, from sources like septic tanks, animals and fertilizers.

“This is a growing problem in the Midwest, as our man-made reservoirs age and nutrients, which are the problem, accumulate in our reservoirs,” Boyer says.

The Corps plans to monitor the situation, but can’t predict whether the toxic algae will diminish or spread. Avery is just trying to keep his girls entertained without swimming.

“They haven’t been exactly thrilled about it, but they have their kayaks and stuff that they’ve been able to play on and stuff. And we’ve been fishing,” Avery says. “The last thing I want is for them to be sick.”

To learn more about the potential health impacts of exposure to blue green algae, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/habs/illness-symptoms-freshwater.html

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