Blue-Green Algae Blooms Observed in St. Albans Bay

For Immediate Release:
August 21, 2003

Contact: Bill Bress
State Toxicologist
Vermont Department of Health

ST. ALBANS—The Vermont Department of Health declared an alert for St. Albans Bay on August 20th, due to the presence of a blue-green algae bloom in bay waters. A bloom was also observed at the St. Albans Fish and Wildlife Access area.

The alert system was developed by the University of Vermont in conjunction with the Health Department. The UVM Rubenstein Science Laboratory samples lake water on a regular basis until toxin producing algae are found. Depending on the amount found in samples determines the alert level.

“The purpose of the monitoring research in Lake Champlain is to provide the public with good decisions on how to use the lake”, states Dr. Mary Watzin, Director of the Rubenstein Lab.

Mississquoi Bay has experienced blue-green algae blooms on the Quebec side of the bay since July, and the blooms recently extended across the border to the Vermont side. An alert was issued for the entire eastern shore of the bay, including Lime Kiln Point, Randolph Swamp, and the Fish and Wildlife Access along Route 78.

Bill Bress, State Toxicologist for the Vermont Department of Health warns, “The blue-green algae levels have increased along the eastern shore of the Mississquoi Bay. People should not drink water from the Bay. Common purification methods such as boiling, ultraviolet light and chlorination will not destroy the toxins formed in the blooms.”

People should avoid swimming in areas where there is visible green or blue-green scum collected on the surface of the water. Ingestion (drinking) of algae that are producing toxin can result in symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Skin exposure can result in irritation or allergic reactions. Children should especially be kept from entering scummy water since they are more likely to ingest the water than adults.

Dogs are at risk if they eat the algae or drink the water in an area where a toxic algae bloom is taking place. They may also ingest the algae by licking their fur after they have been in water that is thick with algae.

Generally, lots of wind, cooler weather, rainfall, and cloudy days will lead to the collapse of an algae bloom. Some blooms die off after a few days or weeks, while others persist for a few months.