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Warning issued after dangerous algae discovered at Utah Lake

PROVO, Utah – Stay out of the water in Utah Lake’s Provo Bay. That’s the message from the Utah County Health Department after water tests confirmed a harmful blue-green algal bloom.

“It looks distinctly different than the typical algae that we see in the summer months in these lakes,” said Bryce Larsen, director of environmental health for Utah County.

Signs put up by the Utah County Health Department warn to stay out of the water.

Signs have been posted in the Provo Bay area, including the Swede Sportsman Access, warning that people and pets should not enter the water because of potential health risks. Other areas of the lake were not affected.

“Symptoms of exposure include headache, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes allergic-like reactions from skin contact,” said officials from the Utah County Health Department.

The warning came after a series water samples collected on June 6 came back from the lab showing levels of toxins that exceed standards set by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

A satellite image from June 7 shows the blue-green algae on Utah Lake, courtesy of The University of Georgia.

Utah County health officials said only the Provo Bay area of Utah Lake was affected by the harmful algal bloom.

“Utah Lake is a huge lake with many areas not currently affected,” said Eric Edwards, deputy director of Utah County Health Department. “We want those recreating to safely enjoy the lake and also make sure they are properly cautioned about the presence about potential harmful algal blooms in certain areas of the lake that can pose health risks.”

A map from the Utah County Health Department shows the Provo Bay as the area affected by the blue-green algae.

Crews started collecting additional water samples Monday from various locations around the lake for more testing. The algal bloom is easy to spot with its bright color that some say looks like green antifreeze.

“We’re monitoring it at this time to make sure that it doesn’t spread to other parts of the lake,” Larsen said. “Use common sense and just avoid those areas where you see the blue-green algae.”

The health department said conditions were ripe for the blue-green algae to grow rapidly because of warm temperatures, lots of sunshine, calm water conditions and nutrients in the water.

“These mats, or this blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, shifts constantly. It’s always moving depending on the weather conditions,” Larsen said. “It will blow up on to the shore and actually coat the rocks and the shoreline.”

The county health department said those concerned about possible human expose should call their doctor of the poison control center at 800-222-1222.

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