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Public warned to avoid Provo Bay in Utah Lake due to algal bloom

UTAH COUNTY -- Environmental officials say members of the public and their pets should stay out of Utah Lake's Provo Bay due to a blue-green algal bloom that has the potential to produce harmful toxins.

According to a press release from the Department of Environmental Quality issued Thursday, samples collected at the lake showed indications of harmful levels of cyanobacteria in the waters of Provo Bay after the bloom was spotted on satellite imagery.

Ralph Clegg, Executive Director for the Utah County Health Department, said while Provo Bay should be avoided, other parts of the lake remain safe for recreation.

“There are many areas of the lake not currently affected," Clegg stated. "We want people to safely enjoy Utah Lake but also want to caution visitors about the presence of potential harmful algal blooms in certain parts of the lake that may pose a health threat."

Water quality crews took samples starting June 12 as part of routine monitoring efforts, and follow-up samples detected levels of blue-green algae at the mouth of Provo Bay that are double the state's threshold for recreational advisories. The levels were even higher in the open waters of Provo Bay. Those cell counts are an indication of harmful levels of cyanobacteria, the press release states.

State agencies have posted warning signs at Utah State Park near Provo Bay to caution people against getting into the water.

While blue-green algae are a natural part of many freshwater ecosystems, certain conditions can lead to rapid growth and result in large blooms. Those large blooms can create harmful levels of cyanobacteria.

High levels of nutrients combined with warm temperatures, abundant sunlight, and calm water contribute to the growth of such algal blooms, which is why they often occur in summer. This bloom comes a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of the discovery of a large algal bloom that shut down Utah Lake last year.

Symptoms of exposure to cyanobacteria include headache, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes an allergic-like reaction from skin contact. Anyone with concerns about possible exposure to cyanobacteria should contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or consult with their physician.