UPDATE: As of Oct. 31, the lakes should still be avoided. Clark County has upgraded the concern from an advisory to a warning after test results showed elevated toxin levels last week. Clark County Public Health will be checking the lakes weekly and will notify the public when the algae has dissipated.
Clark County Public Health officials hope to see a lift on the blue-green algae advisory at Camas’ Round and Lacamas lakes by week’s end.
The advisory, still in full effect when this newspaper went to print on Wednesday, Oct. 24, cautions against residents making contact with — or allowing pets to make contact with — water in both lakes. The warning for blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, was announced at Round Lake Oct. 16, after a citizen reported a visible algae bloom. Advisories at Lacamas Lake followed on Oct. 18.
The county expects to receive test results on the water by the end of the week, though there could be a follow-up test if results don’t indicate that the sample was clean of toxins.
“You can’t just look at a bloom and determine that there are no toxins there, you have to test it,” said Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick.
According to the health department, the algae “produce toxins that can be harmful to people and deadly for small pets that drink the water.” Melnick said that this type of toxin can cause liver damage. He recalled a dog that died after contact with a bloom in 2009.
“Whenever there’s an algae bloom I think people should stay out of the lake,” he said.
The department also recommended thoroughly cleaning any fish caught in the lakes and discarding the organs, which can contain more concentrated doses of the toxin.
Blue-green algae crops up commonly in area lakes. It thrives on nutrients, like in areas where fertilizer enters the water, and sunshine.
“With the weather changing, I’m hoping that the bloom goes away,” Melnick said.
He added that the bloom has occurred at an unusually late time of year.
“It seems that the season for blue-green algae is increasing,” said Melnick, who has worked for the county for 12 years. “It seems that we’re starting earlier and ending later. I don’t recall having an algae bloom this late in my time here.”
Lacamas Regional Park and Heritage Park are open during this time. Water in the restrooms and shelters is not impacted. Melnick reiterated his warning and asked that the public continue to keep an eye out for blue-green algae.
“We rely on people at the lakes to let us know if there’s a bloom,” he said. “If there is a bloom, we really recommend people keep their animals on a leash and out of the lake — and themselves out of the lake.”