The Richmond Register

October 18, 2013

Harmful algal blooms discovered at Lake Reba

By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The Madison County Health Department announced Thursday that the Kentucky Division of Water has found unhealthy levels of cyanobacteria in the waters of Lake Reba.

Health Department spokesperson Christie Green said local doctors and vets have been notified of the bacteria to make them aware of the symptoms that may appear. The DoW is testing the water to determine the extent of the danger.

Richmond Parks and Recreation Director Erin Moore said the department had not been informed of the algae’s presence because the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the lake. However, the city operates Lake Reba Park and Camp Catalpa Park that surround the lake.

The Register made several attempts to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife Friday afternoon, but did not get a response.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, cyanobacteria are photosynthetic and can live in terrestrial, fresh, brackish or marine waters. While they are usually too small to be seen, they can can form visible colonies, which look like slicks of bright green, brown or red paint floating on the water’s surface, when other forms of algae grow exuberantly.

Harmful algal blooms occur when the amount of cyanobacteria in a water source is large enough to threaten people, animals or the environment. HABs can block sunlight and use up oxygen, killing other plants and animals in the water. Some HABs produce toxins known to be the most powerful natural natural poisons on the planet, and there is no known antidote.

Green said people and animals that have come into contact with HABs can become sick, and often the first signs of HAB comes from sick dogs that have been swimming in an algae-filled pond.

“It seems to affect dogs more than humans,” Green said. “They can lick themselves after being in the water, and they’re more likely to ingest water as they swim.”

There are several ways HAB can affect humans as well, the CDC report states.

Getting algae on the skin may cause the affected area to break out in a rash, hives or blisters. Inhaling water droplets can result in allergic reactions or asthma-like symptoms, such as a sore throat or runny eyes and nose. Swallowing water with cyanobacterial toxins in it can cause severe gastroenteritis (including diarrhea and vomiting), liver and/or kidney toxicity or neurotoxicity, which manifests itself in humans with symptoms including weakness, difficulty breathing, staggering, convulsions and death. People suffering from neurotoxicity may have numb lips, tingling fingers, or dizziness, the report stated.

For protection from HABs, the CDC recommends people in the area avoid skiing, swimming or boating in areas of discolored water. Additionally, do not allow pets or livestock to drink from or swim in areas where water is discolored or where foam, scum or mats of algae can be seen floating on the surface. If animals do enter the area, rinse them off with fresh water immediately.

The CDC also recommends that anyone who believes they have been poisoned by cyanobacterial toxins seek medical attention right away.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.