The public is being advised to avoid contact with Lacamas Lake and Round Lake in Camas, including swimming, wading and jet skiing or water skiing, due to high levels of blue-green algae.
On Friday Clark County Public Health announced that routine test results confirmed the presence of the algae, also called cyanobacteria, in Lacamas Lake. It can be dangerous to human health, and pose a significant hazard to pets and livestock.
“It is especially important to keep children out of the lake because they are more likely than adults to swallow some water,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer, adding that pets are also at high risk. “We want to minimize the chances of illness from water contact so people can have a safe, enjoyable July 4 holiday.”
Melnick said boating is still a safe activity, so long as people do not come into contact with the water.
“I feel bad,” he said. “I don’t want to ruin everyone’s Fourth of July, but I want people to be safe. We don’t want anyone to get sick.”
Warning signs now are posted in the area. Melnick said Health Department staff will keep an eye on the lake in the coming days, and follow-up testing will likely take place this week.
Lacamas Park and Heritage Park remain open to the public. Water in the restrooms and shelters is not affected and is safe to drink.
According to information from Clark County Public Health, a blue-green algae bloom is a rapid and massive buildup that gives the water a scummy texture and a green color. It may also appear bluish, brownish or reddish green. A bloom may appear during warm weather, usually between May and October.
Warm, sunny weather and nutrients can cause algal blooms. Nutrients that enter the water and promote algal blooms include phosphorus and nitrogen, found in fertilizers and in agricultural, human and animal waste.
Some algae may contain toxins that can lead to liver injury, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, the toxins can damage the nervous system and lead to muscle tremors, paralysis and respiratory distress. Skin irritations, allergic reactions, rashes and blisters also are possible. Symptoms may occur within minutes or appear hours or days later following exposure.
The last time the lake was closed due to elevated levels of blue-green algae was in September 2009, when a dog owned by a Camas couple reportedly became acutely ill and later died after swimming in Round Lake in Camas.