Public reminded to watch for harmful algae blooms

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette
Toxic algae may look like pea soup, green paint or floating mats of scum, and it will sometimes have a bad smell.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is asking the public to be on the lookout for harmful algae blooms on lakes and rivers around the state.

The public is encouraged to be alert to the possible presence of toxic algae, which can be harmful to both people and animals. Blooms typically begin to form in hot, calm weather.

One can’t tell by looking at algae if it’s toxic. It may look like pea soup, green paint or floating mats of scum, and it will sometimes have a bad smell.

Harmful blooms aren’t always large and dense, and they can sometimes cover smaller portions of the lake with little visible algae present.

Everyone is encouraged to take a close look at the water and the shoreline before diving in, to try to determine whether or not a bloom recently happened. 

“If it looks and smells bad, don’t take a chance,” said Pam Anderson, MPCA water quality monitoring manager.

Those who do come in contact with blue-green algae, need to wash off with fresh water immediately, paying special attention to the areas their swim suit covers.

Rinse off pets with fresh water, too, and keep them out of algae that has accumulated on shore.

People can become sick from swallowing or having skin contact with water that has toxic algae, or by breathing tiny droplets of water in the air.

In most people, symptoms are mild and may include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, eye irritation, cough, sore throat and headache.

However, dogs are more likely than people to get sick or even die after contact with harmful algae blooms. Dogs are also more willing to wade into lakes with algal scum. Dogs tend to swallow water while swimming and lick their coats afterwards, swallowing algae on their fur.

Dogs exposed to blue-green algae can experience symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rash, difficulty breathing, general weakness, liver failure, and seizures.

If your dog has symptoms after visiting a lake, seek veterinary care immediately. Several dog deaths in the state have been attributed to toxic algae.

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- Image courtesy of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency