Is My Algae Toxic?

As we enter this heatwave of a week in Minnesota, the conditions are perfect for our lakes to produce hazardous algae blooms. 


Toxic Algae Bloom

Photo courtesy of MPR News


First things first, what are blue-green algae blooms?

The pho-algae often resembles spilled paint and is not algae at all. It is instead a type of bacteria that populates in bodies of warm, nutrient-rich water. With these conditions, the “algae” can quickly breed and become a “bloom.” However, you cannot tell by looking at a bloom if it is harmful or not. Most blooms are not.

 Here is an easy, no-cost test for blue-green bacteria. 


Where do the algae blooms usually pop up?

They can be found all over Minnesota but mainly thrive in warm, shallow lakes. The blooms are typically located near the shoreline or a secluded bay.


What happens if I come in contact with the algae?

You can fall ill from any exposure, including swallowing, skin contact, and breathing in airborne water droplets near the lake. Common symptoms of contact include “vomiting, diarrhea, rash, eye irritation, cough, sore throat, and headache (MNPCA).” They typically begin to show hours after contact.


Knowing this, how can you reduce the risks from harmful algae?

Avoid the algae-filled water; however, if you come into contact, immediately wash the affected area with fresh water afterward.

Don’t consume tainted water through cooking, drinking, or even brushing your teeth. If one uses contaminated water, it will irritate the skin.

Additionally, avoid eating fish entrails or muscles where the blooms are occurring; however, getting sick from eating fish is incredibly rare.


How can I get rid of blooms? 

Like most bacteria, these blooms are an important part of our ecosystems here in Minnesota. Since the bacteria thrive in warm water, which is entirely out of our control, the most important step we can take is to reduce the nutrients that get into the lake—specifically reducing the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus runoff from fertilizers or runoffs.

Removing your lakeweeds so they do not get the chance to decompose and harbor a place for the bacteria to populate will also assist in reducing the likelihood of blooms. Contact us here to schedule a free estimate to remove your lake weeds.