A recreational use water quality advisory posted on the beach of Maumee Bay State Park last month due to high levels of microcystin in the water on Aug. 18 was still in effect by press time last Thursday.
Microcystin is one of several toxins produced by blue green algae blooms. It can affect the liver and nervous system if ingested.
The algae problem plaguing a number of inland lakes across Ohio is primarily the result of runoff from farm field nutrients.
A sample of the water at Maumee Bay State Park on Aug. 18 showed microcystin levels at 577 ppb (parts per billion), almost 29 times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 20 ppb, according to Dina Pierce, northwest district media coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. For recreational water, WHO considers microcystin levels of 20 ppb or higher to be a moderate to significant health risk.
“The beach is not closed,” said Pierce. “The algae bloom in the lake and the algal toxin levels can fluctuate greatly day-to-day, even during the course of a day.”
The public is advised to “use common sense,” when having contact with the water, said Pierce.
“They should avoid contact with visible algae, avoid swallowing or otherwise ingesting water and wash off after getting out of the water. Algal toxins can irritate skin, cause nausea and gastro-intestinal distress, and in larger exposures, cause liver or nerve damage,” she said. “The bottom line is to use common sense – if the water looks off color, smells bad or has visible algae, then avoid it. People also should be cautious with the most susceptible populations such as young children, elderly adults and people with compromised immune systems.”
Blue green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can also sicken or kill pets.
Dogs have reportedly died after swimming in Grand Lake St. Marys state park, which has high levels of microcystin. The lake is located between Toledo and Dayton. The Ohio EPA, ODNR, and ODH have issued a contact advisory and fish consumption advisory for Grand Lake St. Marys.
The Ohio EPA, the ODNR and ODH are working together on the advisories, said Pierce.
“Our intent is to give people the best information we can so they can make an informed decision on whether to swim, ski, etc.,” she said.
The state will continue sampling from the lakes. Advisories will remain in effect until there have been two consecutive weeks of microcystin below 20 ppb.
Oregon officials are carefully monitoring the situation.
“We consider this a serious environmental challenge for our lake, our beaches, fishing and recreational uses – those are important parts of our economy,” said Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley. “We have to work with the Ohio EPA to identify practices to help deal with this on a broader level.”