Chesterton Tribune

Indiana warns of toxic algae after dogs die

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ANDREWS, Ind. (AP) — Indiana residents are being urged to protect themselves and their pets from water in some of the state’s lakes after the deaths of two dogs that swam in a reservoir tainted by toxic algae.

Officials with the state Board of Animal Health told WANE-TV that blue-green algae is likely what caused two dogs belonging to Larry and Marge Young to die last week about 24 hours after the Wabash couple let them play in northern Indiana’s Salamonie Reservoir.

They told The Journal Gazette that their two other dogs were sickened by the lake’s water and are currently taking medication to combat liver problems caused by the toxin. The Youngs are hopeful their surviving dogs will pull through. “This is new to us. It’s a hard lesson to learn,” Marge Young said of the toxic algae.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has found high levels of the algae in seven Indiana lakes, including Salamonie, where record levels were discovered. The other lakes are Raccoon Lake, Hardy Lake, Brookville Lake, Whitewater Lake, Sand Lake and Worster Lake.

“We have not seen levels this high,” said Cyndi Wagner of IDEM’s Office of Water Quality.

The algae feed on phosphorus, a common ingredient in fertilizer and animal waste. Hot and dry weather, overfertilization of lawns and runoff from livestock farms all contribute to the algae’s growth, said IDEM spokesman Rob Elstro.

“The blue-green algae problem we have in a lot of our lakes and reservoirs is strictly due to overfertilizing in our watersheds,” Wagner said.

The state Department of Natural Resources said some blue-green algae produce toxins that can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, nausea, stomachaches and tingling fingers and toes. People who experience any of these symptoms after boating or swimming should seek medical attention, the agency said in a news release.

Dogs and other animals are particularly vulnerable to the algae because they may drink the contaminated water or swallow it as they clean their coats.

Officials said people using lakes for recreation should avoid contact with the scummy blooms that signify the presence of blue-green algae and should avoid ingesting the water. They’re urged to wash with soap and water afterward and contact a physician if they develop any symptoms of toxic exposure.

Blue-green algae is most often found in shallow water or coves and bays where there is little water movement.

During summer, IDEM regularly tests for blue-green algae at 13 Indiana lakes. If high levels of algae or toxins are documented, notices are posted online and placed at the lakes until algae cell counts return to safe levels.


Posted 7/23/2012