State on the lookout for blue-green algae

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2007

Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – Each summer high temperatures draw people to Vermont lakes, bays and beaches, and each summer blue-green algae blooms keep people out.

Since 1998, the Vermont Department of Health has been working with partner agencies and the University of Vermont to closely monitor blue-green algae blooms statewide throughout the summer season.

St. Albans Town Beach is routinely closed four or five times a year due to the blooms, and this has led the Town of St. Albans to install two giant solar-powered fountains this year to aerate the water and kill algae. Prouty Beach in Newport did not have to close at any time last summer, but a thick blue-green algae bloom was spotted in the south end of Lake Memphremagog in 2006 near the boat dock. Shelburne Pond is posted off-limits for swimming nearly the entire summer.

“The state has a comprehensive monitoring system in place, but we welcome reports from anyone who lives near water where the blooms occur each year,” said State Toxicologist Bill Bress, PhD, of the Vermont Department of Health. “The water may appear cloudy and look like thick pea soup, and a thick mat or foam may form when a bloom washes onto shore.”

Anyone who spots an algae bloom should call the Health Department at 1-800-439-8550.

Some kinds of blue-green algae produce dangerous toxins. Skin exposure can result in irritation or allergic reactions, and drinking water containing algae that is producing toxins can result in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Children are considered to be at higher risk because they are more likely to drink the water.

Swimming is not the only danger of exposure. People can also inhale or swallow blue-green algae when water skiing or using a ski-doo.

No human cases of illness related to blue-green algae have been documented in Vermont.

Dogs are at high risk of exposure to the algae if they swim in a bloom and then lick it off their fur. Two dogs died after drinking large amounts of water from a toxic blue-green algae bloom in Lake Champlain in 1999.

Shifts in wind direction can move a bloom from one location to another. Periods of cool rainy weather can cause a bloom to disappear.

A weekly status map for Lake Champlain can be found at: http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/bg_algae/weekly_status.aspx, or for more information on Blue Green Algae visit: http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/bg_algae/bgalgae.aspx

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