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Colter Peterson, KSL

Utah Lake now under shore-to-shore warning for toxic algal blooms

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Sep 9th, 2019 @ 9:57pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The shallow waters of Utah Lake are now under a shore-to-shore public health advisory due to outbreaks of harmful algal blooms, with restrictions local health officials say will remain in effect for the entire month.

The public health warning issued Monday comes after cyanobacterial cell counts in three open water sampling locations revealed numbers that surpassed the safe recreation health-based standard, meaning people should avoid contact with the water to avoid exposure.

The cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can contain toxins that cause liver damage or nerve damage.

Utah County health officials say due to the variable nature of harmful algal blooms this time of year, the warning will remain in effect for September.

The health department is placing advisory signs at seven permanent locations at the lake, which annually suffers infestations of harmful algal blooms due to a number of reasons, including stagnant weather, hot temperatures and its shallow nature.

Scientists with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and multiple other entities are engaged in research to combat the algal bloom problem at Utah Lake through efforts fueled by grants and money allocated by the Utah Legislature.

The lake, the third-largest freshwater lake in the United States west of the Mississippi, is a recreation hot spot for many along the Wasatch Front. It is home to the endangered June sucker fish, which exist nowhere else and can live to be 40 years old, according to the Utah Lake Commission.

It is also home to five public boat harbors and/or marinas.

While this year hasn’t been as active as some summer seasons for harmful algal blooms, outbreaks have happened in multiple locations, including Ogden Valley’s Pineview Reservoir.

The algal blooms, besides being a public health hazard, are harmful to other aquatic life.

The algae problem is not limited to central Utah, as the Bear River Health Department in northern Utah announced Monday that it has closed the North Beach of the Mantua Reservoir just north of the boat deck.

It also issued a warning for the rest of the reservoir after samples collected in the lake showed high cyanobacteria cell-count densities.

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