Willow Lake water gets all-clear sign

Swimmers and anglers were invited back to the waters of Willow Lake on Thursday when public health officials lifted an advisory against water contact there because of a stubborn blue-green algae bloom.

Water tests conducted Aug. 9 showed that levels of the algae, which technically is a form of bacteria, and any associated toxins were well beneath state Department of Human Services safety thresholds for contact by humans and pets.

The results reached Jackson County parks managers Wednesday, following a one-week waiting period after a clean toxin test as outlined by DHS protocols.

The posters warning people to keep themselves and their dogs away from the water finally came down Thursday, 120 days after they were installed.

"Finally, it's over," said Steve Lambert, the county's parks manager. "It's been a long while.

"Honestly, I hope I never have to talk to you about algae levels at Willow Lake again, but we'll see."

The advisory at the High Cascades lake 24 miles east of Medford went into effect April 21, and its duration makes it the second longest in Oregon history. The record rests with Lost Creek Lake, where an advisory spanned 134 days between mid-September 2008 and late January 2009.

Thursday's announcement meant eight lakes in Oregon still wore the Scarlet A for algae advisories, with Fish Lake the only one in Jackson County. The advisory there went into effect Aug. 9.

DHS officials on Thursday issued a new advisory against water contact at Gerber Reservoir in Klamath County because of a newly detected bloom there.

A dozen lakes in Oregon this year have seen algae levels above what the World Health Organization considers unhealthy. They include Lost Creek, Diamond and Lemolo lakes, where the advisories already have been lifted.

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

No one in Oregon has proven to be sick from exposure to the algae, which the WHO said has caused illnesses and even deaths elsewhere in the world.

A dog died last summer after it consumed algae-laced water along the Umpqua River near Elkton.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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