MOSES LAKE — The Grant County Health District is warning residents to avoid contact with the water in portions of Moses Lake after the discovery of potentially toxic blue-green algae.
“These algae grow rapidly in fresh water when there is enough sunlight, high temperatures and nutrients in the water,” said a health district statement.
It is common for lakes across the county to have late-summer algae blooms, the district said, noting that while not all blue-green algae are toxic, some are.
“There are types of blue-green algae that produce toxins (or poisons) which can cause serious illnesses,” the district said.
Signs of a toxic algae bloom include dead fish floating on the water or dead birds or other animals on the shore or in the water, or the sudden and unexplained death of a pet that has recently been in contact with pond or lake water.
Symptoms of poisoning by toxic algae include skin rash, numbness in the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, dizziness, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the health district.
The algae produce toxins that can affect the nervous system and the liver, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
“Avoid all contact with the water,” the district said. “Pet owners should not allow their pets to play in or drink water where blue-green algae are present as these toxins can kill pests.”
According to the Washington State Department of Health, while the bacteria are called blue-green algae, a lake bloom can look anything like a sheen of green paint floating on the water to bluish, brown or even reddish green.
Blue-green algae are actually a type of ancient bacteria and are one of the simplest and earliest life forms to arise on earth.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.