High levels of blue-green algae are currently triggering recreational alerts at 10 lakes in Indiana this summer, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The algae has rarely been toxic to humans in Indiana, but even small amounts of the toxins can be dangerous for pets, said Cyndi Wagner with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“Even in those small amounts, if a dog drinks enough of the water they could succumb to the effects of the toxin and the toxins — there are four different ones — some of them are neurotoxins and some of them are liver toxins,” Wagner said.
Blue-green algae is one of several common algal species in Indiana lakes.
Normally, the algae lives in harmony with the other species and doesn’t pose a danger, but fertilizer runoff from farms and yards can give blue-green algae a competitive advantage.
“They happen to be really good at out-competing all those other organisms when nutrients are high in the lake,” Wagner said.
Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura said the agency is not aware of any harmful algal blooms in the Commonwealth.
Indiana has been testing for blue-green algae for nearly a decade, Wagner said. When the threshold gets too high, Indiana puts up signs and releases recreational advisories.
Wagner said it’s been a typical summer for the state, but there are still advisories out there, including at Hardy Lake in Southern Indiana.
“Swimming and boating are still permitted. Avoid contact with the algae, avoid swallowing water while swimming and take a bath or a shower with warm, soapy water after coming in contact with lake water,” Wagner said.
Climate change could increase the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms.
Though the recent rain has helped the Ohio River avert a possible harmful algal bloom, a handful of Greater Cincinnati agencies continue to monitor the river for the presence of the toxic scum-like organism that can potentially kill fish and other wildlife.