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Utah Lake closed until further notice due to algal bloom

By Kurt Hanson daily Herald - | Jul 15, 2016
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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom that officials say is one of the worst they have seen in years is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom that officials say is one of the worst they have seen in years is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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A fisherman drives his boat through algae on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom that officials say is one of the worst they have seen in years is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Algae is pictured on Friday, July 16, 2016, at Utah Lake in Provo. A recent algae bloom, that has officials saying it is one of the worst they have seen in years, is affecting recreational activities in the area. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

Effective immediately, Utah Lake is closed to the public due to a large and potentially deadly algal bloom.

According to Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, “These types of algae release neurotoxins and hepatotoxins, that can affect brain, nervous system, and liver function.”

As a result, state and county health officials have closed the lake to water users. Additionally, the state Department of Agriculture and Food is advising farmers and ranchers to refrain from using lake water for food production and livestock until further notice, according to a press release.

Officials with the Utah Department of Health and Utah County Health Department said the lab results collected by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality show the concentration of algal cells in the water to be three times the threshold for closing a body of water.

“Water with these levels of concentration in the algal bloom pose serious health risks,” said Ralph Clegg, executive director of the Utah County Health Department. “To protect the health of people and animals that use the lake, it is necessary for the lake to remain closed until it is safe for recreation.”

Water quality crews collected samples Wednesday after an individual recreating on the lake reported the algal bloom, which extended from Provo Bay to the Utah Lake State Park Harbor, also in Provo. Initial water sample results show the bloom is almost entirely comprised of a species of toxin-producing cyanobacteria, according to a press release from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Samples show that there are, on average, between 34 and 36 million cells per milliliter; three times greater than the threshold of health risk.

According to satellite imagery, the algal bloom covers about 90 percent of the lake on the surface and subsurface.

“While algae may not always be visible on the lake, the threat to human and animal health can still be present. Toxins can persist in the water for several days after algae dissipate,” said Erica Gaddis, assistant water quality director for DEQ. “One of the ways we protect the health of people and animals is by testing water for the presence of toxin-producing algal species.”

For concerns about exposure to toxic water, contact Utah Poison Control at (800) 222-1222. If you have taken fish from the lake since July 10, state officials recommend against eating the fish.

For those concerned about possible animal exposure, the state agriculture department advises calling a local veterinarian.

For updates on lake conditions, go to alerts.utahcounty.gov and sign up for an account. 

The Toughman Utah half triathlon race scheduled for 7:15 a.m. Saturday at the Utah Lake State Park will still be run, however, with modifications.

The swim portion of the race will be cancelled due to the toxicity of the water, according to the race organizer, Aaron Shamy.

Shamy said they tried everything to schedule a swim portion, but it was too short notice for surrounding cities. Instead of swimming 1.2 miles, competitors will warm up with a 1.2 mile run, before transitioning to the 56-mile cycling portion of the race.

This is a breaking news situation and more information will be released as it is made available.

Were you recreating on Utah Lake this week? Do you spend a lot of time there? 

Email us your story and experience with Utah County’s largest body of water at heraldextra.com under “Contact us.”

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