This Fourth of July, Watch Out for Toxic Algae Blooms in Lakes

Friday, June 29, 2018

Millions of people could be exposed to potentially toxic algae blooms this July Fourth holiday.

Almost 47 million Americans are expected to travel over the Fourth of July, with many visiting beaches. But toxic algae outbreaks are occurring in lakes and rivers across the nation, so Fourth of July beachgoers need to be careful.

Since EWG last reported on the number of poisonous algae outbreaks in the U.S. in June, 27 more outbreaks have happened. EWG’s interactive algae story map shows where the outbreaks are taking place.

The new outbreaks have occurred from coast to coast – from Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, Calif., to Sisson Pond, R.I. And the outbreaks have affected lakes that are popular Fourth of July destinations, like Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., and have even popped up in multiple ponds and lakes in New York City.

Toxic algae outbreaks are also returning to lakes that have outbreaks every summer. For instance, Lake Okeechobee in Florida has algae outbreaks every year, and this year is no different, as the satellite image below shows.

Souce: ESA-Sentinel 2 on June 20, 2018

Upper Klamath Lake, Ore., also has a history of algae outbreaks, and this year’s outbreak seems especially green.

Souce: ESA-Sentinel 2 on June 19 and 27, 2018

These toxic algae outbreaks aren’t just impacting recreation, but are also poisoning drinking water. Salem, Ore., had a “do not drink” advisory in place for many weeks due to algae toxins. And just last week, the governor of Kansas declared a state of emergency in the City of Norton due to harmful algae outbreaks in the lake that is the city’s water source. The National Guard had to be called in to take clean drinking water to Norton residents.

Short-term exposures to algae toxins – whether through ingestion or skin contact – have been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage. No one wants to take those home from a Fourth of July trip.

Dangerous outbreaks happen when chemical runoff and discharges from farm fields get into bodies of water like lakes and rivers. Rain and heat combine with the pollutants to make the problem even worse.

We need stricter laws that demand farmers implement conservation techniques to decrease the farm pollution that contaminates our water and spurs toxic algae blooms. We rely far too much on voluntary measures that incentivize farmers and landowners to reduce the fertilizer and manure running off their fields. That approach is not working.

If we want to have clean lakes and streams to enjoy on the next Fourth of July and those to come, mandatory conservation measures for farms are a must.


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