Toxic algae returns to Madison lakes

Published: Jun. 13, 2018 at 10:40 PM CDT
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A toxic algae has returned to Madison's lakes once again.

Blue-Green algae was found in Lakes Mendota and Monona.

The toxic algae can be recognized by its bright color and funky smell.

Chris Kucharik is a professor of Ergonomics and Environment at UW-Madison. He describes the distinct appearance of the algae.

"You'll see different colors of green. This last one that we had last week was kind of a teal blue color," Kucharik said.

A combination of run-off from farming, heavy rainfall, and hot temperatures can create an environment for blue-green algae to bloom.

"While farming is a contributor to the problem, they are also going to be part of the solution," Kucharik explained. Changes in farming practices and manure disposal could protect lakes in the future.

For now, Kucharik said it is imperative for lake lovers to avoid water if the algae is present.

"It poses a significant health hazard immediately," he said. "We have beach closures. People are being told to stay out of the water when this blue-green algae is present. In particular, to also keep their pets out of the water because it can be toxic."

Matthew Johnson lives near Monona Bay and frequents the beach with his dog, Sparky.

He said he hasn't noticed the algae this season.

"I come here practically everyday and I haven't seen or smelled anything. I'm careful where I take my dog to let him play in the water," Johnson said.

Christine Niles also makes sure to pay attention to the presence of blue-green algae, especially when her family goes swimming.

"Beaches near us have been closed because of blue-green algae," Niles said.

Bringing in more pools to the City would give people more options when Lakes are filled with algae blooms, Niles said.

"I feel like for a City as big as Madison, I wish there were more pools, too. Part of the reason I think there aren't many pools is because of the lakes, but often the lakes are closed for the blue algae," she explained.

Kucharik said the most recent blooms have mostly subsided, but with high temperatures and heavy rainfall expected over the weekend, there is a chance more blue-green algae blooms.