A harmful algal bloom is occurring in Richmond’s Lake Reba and may persist for several weeks.
On Sept. 15, the Kentucky Division of Water observed favorable water conditions for a harmful algal development and observed a significant bloom in Lake Reba, according to a news release.
State personnel collected samples and laboratory analysis indicates microcystin toxins are occurring in Lake Reba and are above advisory thresholds.
The announcement was made jointly by the Division of Water and the state Health Department.
Water swallowed during recreational activities in this body of water may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Skin, eye and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties may also occur after contact.
Harmful algal blooms arise when there are excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures and low-flow or low-water conditions.
The Division of Water expects these conditions to persist in Lake Reba until significant local precipitation occurs and water temperatures fall. At present, forecasts do not indicate significant changes in temperature or precipitation patterns over the next several weeks, the advisory stated.
Blue-green algae occur naturally in the environment and are a vital part of the ecosystem. The more typical green algae, which do not produce toxins, come in many forms and may appear as underwater moss or stringy mats. Blue-green algae, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies or bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown.
The following guidelines are recommended to avoid exposure to HABs:
• Individuals should avoid direct contact with affected water that has unusual color or where blue-green bacteria have been identified, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving and water skiing.
• People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with harmful algal blooms. Children may be particularly sensitive.
• If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your health care provider.
• If fishing in affected waters, fish fillets (not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, non-lake water.
• Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with water where harmful algae is apparent.
If you are concerned that you have symptoms caused by exposure to harmful algae, see a doctor and call the Madison County Health Department at 623-7312.
For more details about the advisory, call Andrea Keatley at the Kentucky Division of Water at (502) 564-3410 or Justin T. Carey, Division of Public Health Protection and Safety, Department for Public Health, at (502) 564-7398.