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Toxic algae bloom closes North Asheville's Beaver Lake to recreation

Asheville Citizen Times logo Asheville Citizen Times 10/4/2019 Elizabeth Anne Brown, Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE - Beaver Lake is closed to recreation until further notice due to a toxic algae bloom, according to the private lake's owners. 

A sign posted on Oct. 2 near the shore says to avoid contact with water and prevent dogs from swimming in or drinking the lake water. Fishing and boating are banned until further notice.

Bob Wiggins, fishing and boating commissioner for Beaver Lake, told the Citizen Times that the bloom was originally detected by a group from Warren Wilson College that conducts regular water quality monitoring at Beaver Lake. 

A Department of Water Resources official visited the lake Oct. 2 to take a sample, Wiggins said.

The algae's species had not been confirmed as of Oct. 2  though field tests indicate the presence of the toxin microcystin, according to an email DWR regional supervisor Landon Davidson sent Wiggins. Microcystin is produced by photosynthesizing cyanobacteria called blue-green algae. 

Symptoms of exposure to microcystin include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea,  liver inflammation and hemorrhage, acute pneumonia, acute dermatitis, kidney damage and potential tumor growth promotion, according to the EPA. 

What are algae blooms?

Algae blooms are colonies of tiny aquatic plants or photosynthesizing cyanobacteria such as blue-green algae. Most species aren't harmful, but some produce toxins that can sicken and kill people or animals who ingest them. Other algae can cause rashes, respiratory problems and or neurological effects, according to the EPA. 

More: Algae bloom threatens public at Fontana, Waterville lakes

More: Tons of dirt, road bond from Merrimon sinkhole pour into Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

Harmful algal blooms occur when conditions are so favorable that the colonies grow out of control — they thrive in slow-moving, nutrient rich water. Runoff from agricultural or household fertilizers is a typical cause of harmful algal blooms. 

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What to do if you may have been exposed 

Here's a list of precautions to take if you encounter an algal bloom, courtesy of Davidson at the Department of Water Resources. 

  • Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, blue, discolored or scummy. Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
  • Avoid handling, cooking or eating dead fish that may be present.
  • If you come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
  • Use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with an algal bloom.
  • If your child appears ill after being in waters containing an algal bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • If your pet appears to stumble, stagger or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Toxic algae bloom closes North Asheville's Beaver Lake to recreation

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