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Toxic Algae Bloom in Wells Reservoir

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Toxic Algae Bloom in Wells Reservoir

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September 6, 2012

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(East Wenatchee, WA) A toxic algae bloom in the Wells Reservoir has prompted officials to post warnings about swimming, water skiing and other in-water activities in areas impacted by the algae bloom.

The “algae bloom” actually is a blue-green photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria. Under certain conditions, the cyanobacteria can produce several different toxic compounds including a compound  called anatoxin-a, a naturally occurring nerve toxin which has proven lethal to some animals if ingested at high concentrations.

High nutrient levels from a variety of sources can lead to a bloom almost any time of year, but blooms are more likely to be toxic during warm weather.

Properly cleaned and gutted fish from the reservoir are safe to eat. The water should not be consumed and steps should be taken to keep livestock and pets away from the water. Boaters are advised to avoid areas where algae blooms are detected, mostly

eddies and pockets of slow-moving water.

The state Department of Health has recommended that warnings be issued for any toxin levels over one microgram per liter of water and that direct contact with water in contaminated areas should be avoided.  Two water quality samples collected in late August measured 25 micrograms where the blue-green bacteria are present.

Samples from the reservoir will be tested weekly until toxin levels drop below the state’s accepted levels, which is expected when air and water temperatures cool.

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