The discovery of toxic blue-green algae at Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains closed two beaches to swimming for at least a week, according to officials from the California Department of Water Resources.
Signs have been posted at the Sawpit and Cleghorn swim beaches — both on the western side of the lake — advising people not to swim there, according to a Department of Water Resources news release. The lake remains open to boating.
Blooms can quickly appear and disappear, but the department likes to keep the closure signs up for at least a week, said state Water Resources spokesman Doug Carlson.
A more serious warning in effect at San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area near Gilroy prohibits both swimming and boating, Carlson said.
And there are algae warnings in effect for two Los Angeles County lakes, Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake. The warnings mean swimming is allowed but people are urged to stay away from blooms, he said.
In August 2016, another bloom also shut down swimming for awhile in Silverwood Lake, as was the case at various times last summer for Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Pyramid Lake and others across the state.
The blue green algae, or cyanobacteria, can cause eye irritation, skin rashes, diarrhea and even cold and flu-like symptoms. There are no recorded human deaths from the algae in the United States, but it has been known to kill household pets such as dogs.
Children play in water infested with blue-green algae at Silverwood Lake in San Bernardino County on Sunday, June 19, 2016. The algae is known to produce toxins that can kill dogs and make people sick. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ Southern California News Group)
Dogs, experts say, are more prone to toxin poisoning because they ingest more water while swimming and lick their dense, tangled fur clean.
Officials note that blooms could appear as blue-green, white or even brown foams or mats on the water’s surface and along the shoreline.
Water collected from the Sawpit swim area had about 6.1 micrograms of bacteria per liter, which is just above the “warning” action-level concentration of 6.0 micrograms per liter, according to the release.
Authorities warn that the wind or waves can move the algae blooms to a different part of the lake.
How to avoid getting sick from algae:
The Statewide Guidance on Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Blooms recommends some of the following steps to avoid becoming sick:
- Make sure to keep pets and livestock from drinking from, or swimming in, algae. If they get algae in their fur, don’t let them lick it. Rinse it off with clean water to remove it.
- Avoid wading, swimming or water-skiing in areas with algal blooms.
- Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from areas with algal blooms. Purification methods such as camping filters, tablets and even boiling will not remove toxins.
- Do not eat mussels or other bivalves from areas with algae. Remove guts and liver from fish taken from those waters and wash filets thoroughly.
- Get immediate medical treatment if you think if you’ve gotten sick from blue-green algae. Contact a local health department and medical professional if you think you might have had contact with it.
PUBLISHED: July 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm | UPDATED: July 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm