Environmental officials report ‘dramatic decline’ in cell count of algal bloom at Utah Lake

FILE: A photo of an algal bloom

UTAH LAKE — The Department of Environmental Quality said Wednesday that recent samples taken at Utah Lake indicate there has been a, “dramatic decline in algal bloom cell count.”

Advisories were posted earlier this summer due to concerns about toxins in the face of a growing algal bloom, but the DEQ said Wednesday that if this declining trend holds then those advisories will be modified or even lifted entirely.

The DEQ, BYU and the Utah County Health Department will be taking additional tests in the next few days in order to confirm the new numbers reported Wednesday.

As of mid July, the Utah Poison Control Center had received 76 calls about the algal bloom in Utah Lake. Of that number, officials said 28 percent were experiencing adverse effects.

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 was reported 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.