Toxic algae returns to Utah Lake, though not as bad as before

Toxic algae has returned to Provo Bay. The algal bloom in 2016, shown above, caused closures of Utah Lake. (Utah Department of Environmental Quality)

Utah County Health Department officials posted signs around Provo Bay warning visitors of toxic algal blooms last Thursday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News.

The Deseret News reported crews have been monitoring the algae levels since June 12. The blooms were first detected using satellite imagery.

Although algae blooms are present, the level of toxins measured in a sample collected Monday, June 26 did not warrant a full closure of the lake.

The Department of Environmental Quality continues to monitor the level of algal blooms in Utah Lake but reports advisory conditions have not changed from the initial assessments provided on Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30.

However, the department said it is unsure regarding the full extent of possible present toxins and will continue to monitor the situation. The Department of Environmental Quality will continue to post updates concerning algae levels on its website.

Utah Department of Environmental Quality Communications Director Donna Spangler reaffirmed the advisory on Monday, July 3 and urged lake-goers to be aware of conditions and to exercise their best judgment when it comes to swimming.

The Utah Lake Commission echoed these sentiments and encouraged people to fully enjoy the lake over the Independence Day holiday.

“We recommend that you recreate safely,” said Utah Lake Commission Outreach Coordinator Sam Braegger. “Use caution when it comes to scummy areas, enjoy your time and be safe.”

The blue-green algae in question is caused by urban runoff and wastewater but is most commonly attributed to warmer weather in the summer months, Spangler said.

“Everything is status-quo and we just want people to be aware of conditions,” Spangler said.

In cases where algal blooms produce a high enough level of cyanobacteria, they can cause symptoms ranging from stomach pain and skin irritation to diarrhea and vomiting.

Satellite images taken from last week have also confirmed the algal blooms are moving north and east from Provo toward the Jordan River. The blooms are subject to changing wind patterns and could continue to migrate based on the weather over the next few days.

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