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Palmer Lake closes because of toxic algae

TACOMA, WASH.—On Sept. 4, the Health Department closed Palmer Lake on Key Peninsula because of high levels of toxic algae. People and pets should stay out of the water, and you should not use it for recreation—don’t swim, wade, waterski, or fish.

The lake had been under a caution advisory since Aug. 26. That’s when we recommended people avoid parts of the lake with algae. On Aug. 31, we retested the water. Those test results came back Sept 3 and showed the lake had algae with very high levels of toxins. We closed the lake to keep you safe.

We will inspect the lake again next week. Even if the bloom is no longer there, the closure will remain in place for 2 weeks. Find our list of current surface water advisories at www.tpchd.org/advisories.

What are toxic algae?
Toxic algae, also known as cyanobacteria, occur naturally in lakes. They can produce toxins that make people, pets, and animals sick. Read our brochure to learn more about toxic algae.

How can you spot toxic algae?
Toxic algae can form a scum layer and look like green pea soup. They can also look streaky, be dispersed in the water column, or form clumps. Algae can have different colors, most often green but also brown, red, and blueish. Wind and weather conditions can change the amount and location of algae.

What are the Symptoms?

Muscle weakness.
Vomiting.
Diarrhea.
Nausea.

See your medical provider if you may have been in water with toxic algae and have any of these symptoms. Small children are at most risk since they have small bodies and are likely to ingest water.

Skin in contact with toxic algae can become irritated or break out in a rash. This is different from Swimmer’s Itch.

How can toxic algae affect my pets?
Pets are at great risk. They have small bodies and are more likely to ingest larger amounts of toxic algae. They may drink water with toxic algae and lick their fur. Take your pet to the vet when it shows any of these symptoms.

Lethargy.
Vomiting.
Diarrhea.
Convulsions.
Difficulty breathing.
General weakness.

What should I do if exposed to toxic algae?
You can get sick within minutes to hours of exposure. Rinse off anyone or any pets exposed to toxic algae immediately. Look for signs of illness and seek medical treatment if symptoms occur. For exposed pets, keep them from licking their fur to groom.

Can I eat fish from toxic algae contaminated water?
Avoid eating fish from areas with visible algae. Always clean fish well and discard guts.

What should I do if I see an algae bloom?

Don’t drink lake water.
Don’t swim or waterski in areas with visible algae.
Keep pets and livestock away.

When in doubt stay out!

What causes toxic algae?
Toxic algae need light, the right temperature, and nutrients. You can help to reduce nutrients and prevent toxic algae:

Reduce your use of fertilizer.
Maintain your septic system.
Put pet waste into the trash.

Visit www.tpchd.org/toxicalgae to learn more.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of roughly 244 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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