Welcome to Blue Marsh's Watershed Improvement Program for Blue-Green Algae
So, What is Blue-Green Algae, Anyway?
Blue-green algae, despite its name, is actually not algae at all, it’s a type of photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria.
Blue-green algae is naturally occurring and found just about every environment – terrestrial and aquatic. Its growth is dependent on factors such as temperature, sunlight, and nutrient availability. Blue-green algae loves warm, slow moving water with lots of nutrients.
What does it look like?
When conditions are right, blue-green algae can grow quickly and form blooms, or areas of dense growth. Blooms can have many different appearances but they typically look like green or blue globs of paint in the water, or scummy, bubbly foam.
Because blue-green algae thrives in certain conditions, algal blooms are more prevalent in warmer summer months, and can often be sparked after heavy rainfall.
So, why should we care?
Some blue-green algae species produce toxic compounds that are harmful to humans and can be fatal to pets, and wildlife. When a blue-green algae bloom produces toxins it's referred to as a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). The health effects can vary depending on the exposure pathway, the duration of exposure, the type of toxins the bloom produces, and any existing health conditions. Exposure can come from ingestion, inhalation, skin contact, and eye contact. Here are some common toxins and symptoms associated with them:
- Microcystins: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, sore throat, blistering around the mouth, and pneumonia.
- Cylindrospermopsin: gastrointestinal symptoms, including vomiting and bloody diarrhea, as well as fever and headache.
- Anatoxin-a: neurologic symptoms, including numbness, tingling, burning sensation, drowsiness, salivation, and speech disturbances.
Pets and Livestock are at greater risk.
Toxins from HABs can be deadly to pets and livestock. Pets and livestock can get very sick and die within hours to days after swallowing blue-green algae toxins. Contact your veterinarian if you observe any of these symptoms after contact with water:
- Loss of Energy
- Loss of Appetite
- Stumbing and Falling
- Foaming at the Mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Tremors and seizures
- Any other sickness
What is being done about it?
Blue Marsh Lake currently utilizes two floating devices that stimulate the water, improve dissolved oxygen and help prevent blue-algae growth. They also use two live monitoring devices that measure key water quality parameters that indicate the potential presence of blue-green algae. Once blue-green algae is identified, water monitoring and sampling efforts increase and any warnings or notifications are issued to the public.
So, What Now?
Blue Marsh is in a very rural area with about 75% of the contributing watershed being agricultural. Because of this, excess fertilizers and nutrients are being introduced into the water, promoting a prime environment for blue-green algae to flourish. The goal of this program is to be more proactive in minimizing blue-green algae growth by reducing nutrient influx from stormwater runoff.
Along with this informational site, we have developed an interactive web map of the contributing watersheds of Blue Marsh Lake. The web map helps facilitate the identification of areas prone to erosion and excessive runoff. Park Rangers or other interested parties can use this information to advocate for funding to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) at these locations in order to reduce nutrients entering the waterways. Please explore the map below to see the contributing watersheds of Blue Marsh, streams, and streams without a vegetative buffer to protect from nutrient runoff. These areas can utilize BMPs to help improve overall water quality. The full version of the web map with additional data layers can be accessed through the map button at the bottom of the page.
Thank You for your interest in Blue Marsh's Watershed Improvement Program for Blue-Green Algae. We hope you found it informative. Blue-green algae is a major nuisance for water related activities and any improvements to water quality can make a big difference.