Delavan Lake algae not cause for concern, official says
By Jim Dayton – Janesville Gazette
July 10, 2016
DELAVAN–After the Wisconsin DNR confirmed an increase of blue-green algae in
Delavan Lake, swimmers, boaters and other water enthusiasts were told to avoid
coming in contact with the murky substance.
National headlines about a severe blue-green algae outbreak in Florida, one that
prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in the affected
counties, made some locals wonder if Delavan Lake would soon become a thick,
green mat of standing water.
Those assumptions appear to be misplaced, after Walworth County’s Department of
Health and Human Services said in a Thursday release that most of the harmful
algae detected in late June had subsided.
Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are normal in lakes at low
levels and are still an important part of the ecosystem, said Delavan Lake
Sanitary District Administrator Jim DeLuca. The algae can cause problems if they
start to bloom, but DeLuca compared the increased levels to a slight fever.
“It’s like normal is 98.6 and you’re running a 99. OK, you’re a little
elevated,” he said. “But this isn’t like we’re running a 105-degree fever.”
Delavan Lake has not had a flare-up of blue-green algae for five years, DeLuca
said. Years ago, the lake struggled with water quality, causing the town and
city of Delavan and state Department of Natural Resources to take on an
ambitious lake rehabilitation project completed in 1992.
The project involved lowering water levels, killing the fish population to
eliminate carp and constructing ponds to help trap nutrients and sediments
before they reached the lake. Before the rehabilitation, the water clarity was
only inches deep, DeLuca said.
Even with a recent increase of blue-green algae, water clarity is 12 feet,
DeLuca said. The algae flare-up is not an indicator the lake is returning to its
problems from a few decades ago, he said.
The algae blooms can produce toxins that cause illness in both people and pets,
said Janis Ellefsen, a health officer with the Walworth County Department of
Health and Human Services. The harmful algae is different from regular lake
flora and is distinguished by its thick cluster of yellow, green or brown scum,
Signs posted along the Delavan Lake shoreline warn people about the algae’s
health risks, but the lake has remained open, said town of Delavan Administrator
John Olson in an email. The health concern led to a decrease in Delavan Lake
recreational activity during Fourth of July weekend when compared to last year’s
holiday, he said.
Some did not notice an impact, however.
John Mikrut, who owns Lakeside Bait and Tackle near the lake’s inlet, said the
holiday weekend was still busy. Harold Edington, an employee at Lake Geneva
Marine working at the company’s Delavan location, said business has remained
Todd Brown, on vacation from his home in northwestern Ohio, said he, his wife
and two daughters were not deterred from riding their personal watercraft. Their
lakes back home had a similar problem, so they were familiar with the risks, he
Everyone in the Delavan Lake Sanitary District did not see the flare-up as cause
for concern, DeLuca said. He believes the advisory was a good precaution because
there can be many causes of toxic algae blooms.
Warm weather and extended sunlight can spark algae growth, and because of the
weather’s uncertainty, signs remain posted explaining the hazards of ingesting
blue-green algae, Olson said.
Looking ahead, DeLuca said additional research was needed to learn more about
blue-green algae and its triggers. The Delavan Lake Sanitary District has worked
with local farmers to prevent chemical fertilizer runoff, which can cause the
lake to become over-saturated with nutrients that stimulate growth.
“It’s like fertilizing your lawn,” DeLuca said. “You’re fertilizing water
plants, and they’re going to get excited and grow. If we can keep those products
out and keep them in balance, all lakes will do well.”
Retention and detention ponds, plant buffers and porous pavement all have been
part of an effort to trap nutrients from runoff before they reach the lake.
Though this flare-up of algae appears to have dissipated, DeLuca said it was
essential to keep the lake’s nutrients in balance to prevent further issues.
“These are the efforts we try to work with people (on),” DeLuca said. “Whether
its private, urban development or agriculture, we work as a team with all these
different entities to do what we can and minimize negative impacts.”
DNR confirms blue-green algae bloom in Delavan Lake
June 28, 2016
Walworth County health officials are warning people to avoid the blue-green algae bloom in Delavan Lake. Toxins in the bloom can cause serious health threats to people and animals who ingest or come in contact with the algae.
DELAVAN—The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae in Delavan Lake, a condition that poses health threats for those who use the lake for recreation, according to a news release from the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services.
Swimmers, boaters and others are warned to avoid direct contact with water where the blue-green algae is present because of toxins that can cause serious health effects ranging from eye irritation to nerve damage.
Blue-green algae, technically known as Cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in lakes, streams and ponds at low levels. When conditions are favorable, usually in summer, the number of algae can increase dramatically, according to the release. These algal blooms appear as bright green in the water, and blue-green, white, or brown foam, scum, or mats can float on the water and accumulate along shore.
People, pets or livestock who ingest the toxins from this algae can become ill.
In humans, exposure can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcer, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Liver failure, nerve damage, and death have occurred in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested, according to the release.
Health officials say if you have been exposed to blue-green algae and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.
In pets, common symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, difficulty breathing, and general weakness.
Health officials say pets are especially susceptible to harmful algae blooms because they don’t naturally avoid green, scummy water, and their smaller size means ingesting smaller amounts of the toxins can be dangerous.
Health officials suggest taking your pet to a veterinarian if it has been exposed to the algae and is experiencing symptoms.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services offers some tips in dealing with blue-green algae:
• Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through algae, scums, or mats, or lick their fur after going in the water. Rinse pets in clean water to remove algae from fur.
Avoid wading, swimming, or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms, scums or mats. Always shower with soap after swimming in a lake and wash your hands after coming in contact with lake water.
Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under any circumstances; common water purification techniques (e.g. camping filters, tablets, and boiling) do not remove the toxins.
Limit or avoid eating fish; if fish are consumed, remove guts and liver, and rinse fillets in clean drinking water.
Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue green algae.The public is encouraged to report potential algae-related illness to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services by filling out an electronic form atwww.dhs.wi.gov/eh/bluegreenalgaeor by calling (608) 266-1120.For more information on blue-green algae visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website, www.dhs.wisconsin.gov; the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, www.dnr.wi.gov; or contact Walworth County Division of Public Health at 262- 741-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.