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Toxic algae close swimming beaches

Staff writer

Swimming beaches at Marion Reservoir and Marion County Park and Lake were closed during the weekend because of toxic blue-green algae. Blue-green algae, not to be confused with normal and harmless green algae, release a neurotoxin when they die.

Beaches closed Thursday at the reservoir and Friday at the county lake, but boating and fishing continued throughout the weekend.

The county lake has never been closed for swimming because of algae before, said Tonya Richards, Marion County Environmental Health Director.

“This is the first time,” she said.

County workers set up barricades around the beach at the lake to attract visitors’ attention to signs declaring the beach closed.

“It’s mostly in the shallow areas,” that algae levels are high, Richards said.

The swimming beach and three northern coves were the only areas at the county lake with elevated algae levels.

“We have a large bloom going on right now,” reservoir Park Ranger Traci Robb said Thursday.

It is the second time this year beaches at the reservoir have been closed because of algae, she said.

“It’s pretty bad over at Marion Cove,” said Morgan Marler, water treatment plant supervisor for the City of Hillsboro.

The cities of Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody get their municipal water from the reservoir. Marler wasn’t concerned about drinking water Monday, which is also provided to Peabody customers. She said Hillsboro uses a different treatment process during algae blooms.

Efforts were made to obtain a statement from the City of Marion but Administrator Doug Kjellin and water plant supervisor Marty Fredrickson were not available because they were out of town on city business.

High temperatures and dry weather contribute to the presence of the algae, and fertilizer runoff feeds the algae, Richards told the county commission Monday.

Water quality evaluation is ongoing. Kansas Department of Health and Environment conducted testing at the lake and reservoir Monday, but results weren’t yet available, Marler said.

Algae concentrations can change quickly, Richards said. The county is checking the lake every day.

“We check the beaches multiple times a day,” Robb said.

According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment, common symptoms of blue-green algae exposure include:

Respiratory

  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Dermatologic (skin)

  • Itchy skin
  • Red skin
  • Blistering
  • Hives
  • Other rashes

Other

  • Earache
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Eye irritation

As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, Kansas Department of Health and Environment had issued no warning or advisory related to the algae bloom at Marion Reservoir or Marion County Park and Lake.

Algae situation can change quickly

Blue-green algae warnings can change on a daily basis. Workers at both Marion Reservoir and Marion County Park and Lake are following the situation closely, posting signs if algae concentrations are dangerous.

Look for warning signs at swimming beaches or speak with lake or reservoir employees for the latest information.

Last modified June 30, 2011

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