Blue-green algae poses a problem

Health advisory issued for Fernan Lake

Print Article

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Shay Saunders, 9, keeps an eye out for fish swimming under the dock Wednesday at Fernan Lake. The Panhandle Health District and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a health advisory Wednesday after water samples confirmed the presence of blue-green algae that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals.

FERNAN LAKE - As Larry Castro navigated his boat Wednesday toward the ramp on the west end of Fernan Lake, he had one comment:

"This water reeks."

It more than just smells bad.

A health advisory was issued Wednesday for Fernan Lake by the Panhandle Health District and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Water samples confirmed the presence of blue-green algae that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals.

People are urged to stay out of the lake. Don't touch it, don't drink it, don't touch a stick in it and let your dog chase it.

"The density of blue-green algae in Fernan Lake is likely to be associated with potentially harmful toxin concentrations in water according to World Health Organization guidelines," said a press release.

Kristin Keith, Department of Environmental Quality watershed coordinator, said the last health advisory for Fernan Lake was in 2008.

There was a small algae bloom about two years ago, but not enough for a health concern.

A combination of heat, light and nutrients, including phosphorous, brought on the first significant bloom in four years.

Such blooms are usually in late August or September.

"This is uncharacteristically early," Keith said.

DEQ received a phone call Tuesday from a person who spotted condensed mats of algae. Water sample tests found the lake posed a threat. PHD was called, and the public warning was issued Wednesday.

"The physical appearance of blue-green algae blooms can be unsightly, often causing thick green mats along shorelines," according to a PHD press release. "Often excess nutrients associated with algae blooms are caused by pollution from human activities."

Blooms can occur in waters with high levels of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen under certain conditions, PHD said. Above average rain in June combined with rapid recent warming of water created favorable bloom conditions.

Keith said runoff from lawn fertilizer, stormwater, septic and sewage can affect the lake's quality.

"The whole Fernan Village is piped to Coeur d'Alene's wastewater treatment, so septic wouldn't be a big issue," she said.

According to the Department of Ecology website, "The total input of nutrients varies through time, depending upon land use and other factors. During the summer, nutrient input may increase due to fertilization of cropland, lawns, and gardens."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans who drink or swim in water that contains high concentrations of cyanobacteria or cyanobacterial toxins may experience gastroenteritis, skin irritation, allergic responses or liver damage.

Symptoms of exposure in humans are rare and include numbness, tingling, skin irritation and nausea. If symptoms persist or worsen people should seek medical attention. Pets and livestock should also avoid the area.

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to enjoy other activities near the lake including camping, hiking, biking, catch and release fishing and bird watching.

"I wouldn't want to get in that water," said Steve Saunders as he watched his sons fish off the dock. "It (the algae) doesn't look too deep, but it covers most of the lake."

If people choose to eat fish from this area, it is recommended that they remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking since toxins are most likely to collect in those tissues.

Water quality improvements can be expected to reduce future algae blooms so the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is working with residents and landowners to implement nutrient reduction projects.

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Blue-green algae flows between lily pads on the surface of the most western portion of Fernan Lake.

 

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Larry Castro navigates his boat back toward the launch Wednesday on Fernan Lake.

Print Article

Read More Local News

The search for Roberta Sunday

June 23, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press COEUR d'ALENE — Robert Martin's platoon was sent to check out an enemy bunker complex that had been hit with heavy airstrikes. He heard a coughing sound. "In this one bunker I found three dead ...

Comments

Read More

Putting children first

June 23, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press COEUR d’ALENE — Nearly 200 elementary-age children in the Lakeland School District come to school with growling tummies on Monday mornings. But the Rathdrum Lions Club Foundation, with a generous do...

Comments

Read More

CAMERON: Travel broadens horizons...and you

June 23, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Coeur d'Alene Press For the record, I never knew Augustine of Hippo personally. Fair enough, I may have celebrated a few birthdays and there’s now a bit of gray in my beard — but this man lived in the fifth century. O...

Comments

Read More

Grills get an upgrade at North Idaho College beach

June 23, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Looking for a place to barbecue near Coeur d’Alene’s waterfront? There are some brand-new grills at North Idaho College’s beach area ready for the public to use. A total of 36 cooking grills are...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2017 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X