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Tests show toxic algae still in Toad and Wiser lakes

A sign at Wiser Lake, south of Lynden, warns about toxic algae in the lake. As of Sept. 18 the toxins in Wiser and Toad lakes remained above safe levels.
A sign at Wiser Lake, south of Lynden, warns about toxic algae in the lake. As of Sept. 18 the toxins in Wiser and Toad lakes remained above safe levels. The Bellingham Herald

Toad and Wiser lakes still have unsafe levels of toxins from a blue-green algae bloom in them.

The Whatcom County Health Department tested the lakes again earlier this week.

Yellow and black signs have been posted at both lakes since Friday, Sept. 4, warning people and their pets to stay out of the water.

Health and state Department of Ecology officials said there have been more intense and widespread algae blooms this summer in the state’s lakes and streams, as well as the marine waters of Puget Sound.

Blue-green algae blooms often look like green paint or dye floating on water, but they can be bright green, blue, brown or reddish green. The algae is made up of extremely small organisms that are difficult to pick up or hold.

Toad Lake is near Bellingham; Wiser Lake is outside of Lynden.

Most blue-green algae blooms are not toxic. But depending on conditions, the algae can release toxins into the water that, in high enough concentrations, can sicken humans and kill animals. People who drink the contaminated water may have numbness of the lips, tingling in their fingers and toes, and dizziness. People who swim in contaminated water may develop a skin rash.

But the only way to know whether the algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is toxic is to have it tested.

Results remained well above levels considered safe by the state of Washington.

Mycrocystins are the most commonly found blue-green algae toxins. Another one that’s tested for is anatoxin-a.

The levels of mycrocystins were well above state guidelines to protect human health in recreational bodies of water. That’s 6 micrograms per liter.

At Toad Lake, it was 60 micrograms per liter and at Wiser Lake, it was 325 micrograms per liter.

The anatoxin-a level was below the state threshold at Toad Lake, but 2.32 micrograms per liter at Wiser. The state threshold is 1 microgram per liter.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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