Lost Creek Lake hit by second algae outbreak

People and pets were warned to steer clear of water contact with Lost Creek Lake Monday after a second bloom of potentially toxic blue-green algae fastened its grip on Jackson County's largest reservoir this year.

A voluntary public-health advisory went into effect there Monday after water sampled Sept. 14 showed blue-green algae levels at 3.75 times over state Department of Human Services guidelines for safe contact.

A similar outbreak, but from a different subspecies of this cyanobacteria commonly called blue-green algae, triggered a Lost Creek Lake advisory June 4, and that one lasted 18 days.

This marks the third straight year Lost Creek Lake has been under a blue-green algae advisory issued in September. Last's year's advisory lasted 25 days, while the 2008 one lasted a state record of 134 days.

"We're just going to have to see how this one plays out," said Jim Buck, the Rogue River Basin project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the lake.

"If this one happens to last multiple months, maybe there's a trend there," Buck said. "But we just don't know."

Corps officials Monday installed signs warning visitors to avoid ingesting or inhaling water droplets and particularly to avoid exposure to kids and pets.

Not all blooms create toxic water conditions, which are most common when the algae dies and the toxins are released.

Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms such as numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting also should receive medical attention if they persist or worsen.

No one in Oregon has proven to be sick from exposure to the algae, which the World Health Organization said has caused illnesses and even deaths elsewhere in the world. A dog died in August along the South Umpqua River near Myrtle Creek from toxin exposure after swimming in algae-laced water.

Signs warning about algae's potential danger to pets already were at various access points around Lost Creek Lake this summer, Buck said.

Drinking water from Lost Creek Lake could be especially dangerous as the toxins can't be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.

Anglers who choose to eat fish caught during the advisory should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking since toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. People also should not eat the lake's crayfish during the advisory.

The water sampled near the Takelma Boat Ramp near the dam's face contained 375,285 cells per milliliter of Aphanizomenon.

Based on WHO thresholds, DHS officials issue public-health advisories when Aphanizomenon levels are measured at 100,000 cells per milliliter or more.

The advisories will remain in effect until further notice.

Buck said the reservoir has had a lingering green hue to it for several weeks, and algae amounts appeared thick enough to warrant a water test Sept. 14.

By Friday, maintenance crews reported what appeared to be elevated algae levels.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story