homepage logo

Dog dies after visit to Utah Lake, where toxic algal blooms are rampant

By Nichole Whiteley - | Aug 31, 2023
1 / 3
A sign is posted near an entry point of Utah Lake to educate the public about harmful algal blooms.
2 / 3
A sign is posted near Utah Lake to advise residents to beware due to dangerous algal blooms in the water.
3 / 3
A sign is posted near Utah Lake to advise residents how to safely recreate due to the harmful algal blooms in the water.

One dog belonging to a family from Springville died after walking along the shoreline on Sandy Beach at Utah Lake on Saturday, emphasizing the hazard posed by toxic algae in the water.

The entirety of Utah Lake has been under a warning advisory for harmful algal blooms, or HABS, since Aug. 15 after a health watch was issued for the lake on Aug. 10. This summer, there have been various warning advisories for different parts of Utah Lake, but it now applies to all areas of the water.

This is the first dog to die this summer with the suspicion that the HABS in Utah Lake were the cause. But Ashley Sumner, director of communications for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said the investigation on the cause of the dog’s death is still ongoing. No other animals or humans have been reportedly infected by the algae.

The Utah County Health Department said signs were posted in 2019 around common access points of the lake that educate recreationists about HABS. The signs are updated to add a warning or danger sign depending on the current safety of the water and condition of the HABS. In addition to the signs, Sumner said the DEQ recommends checking the water quality on its website before recreating in any body of water.

The current warning advisory for Utah Lake advises recreators, “Do not swim or water ski, avoid areas of algae when boating, clean fish well and discard guts, keep animals away, don’t drink the water and know how to recognize a harmful algal bloom.” More tips are available on the DEQ website.

Sumner said the concern of bringing animals to the lake is them drinking large amounts of water that could be contaminated with algae and licking off algae that could get on their fur.

On Tuesday, Brandee Wing, owner of the dog who died, posted a message on Facebook saying, “Our Toby Dog was taken away from us due to the algae at SANDY BEACH. He got the algae Bloom Toxin Saturday afternoon. He didn’t swim in the water, only walked the shoreline with us, while we looked for seashells. We think he may have drank some of the water but never saw Him do this.”

Sumner said, “Keep your pets away from the lake. It’s not worth the risk, and prevention is always best when it comes to animals and harmful algal blooms because it could make them very sick and can be fatal.”

The type of algae that is currently contaminating the lake looks bright green and scummy, like grass clippings or like spilled paint. However, the algae has many different appearances.

In a media release, the Utah County Health Department said to avoid water that “Looks like spilled paint or antifreeze, has surface scums, mats or films, is discolored or has streaks (and) has green globs below the surface.”

To learn more about the different types of algae that could be in Utah Lake and what to look for, visit https://deq.utah.gov.

On her Facebook post, Wing said she didn’t know the water may have been toxic. “It’s not showing any VISUAL signs on the water surface. It’s mixed in the water. … Please please stay away!!!”

She also posted algal poisoning signs to watch for: “Lethargy, seizure, not eating, not drinking, disoriented, vomiting, pale Gums, cold body temp, (and) dehydration.”

Sumner explained that this type of algae is typically found on the surface of the water where lakegoers could see it. However, due to wind currents and weather conditions, the algae could be anywhere throughout the water column, including under the water where it is not visible, she said. The DEQ will continue to monitor the water for signs of algae, she added.

The DEQ is advising against “high contact activities” under the warning advisory, meaning recreational activities that risk water getting into the mouth.

Boating is not considered a high-contact activity, which is why it is currently allowed on the lake, but Sumner said to avoid visual areas of algae. Paddleboarding and kayaking are permitted under a warning advisory, but water users should rinse off afterward. In addition, Sumner said not to touch the water or stick your hands in it, and to wash your hands thoroughly before eating any food after being around recreational water.

If the warning advisory is switched to a danger advisory, the same restrictions apply for no swimming, drinking the water and wading in the water, but paddleboarding, kayaking and eating fish caught from the lake will also be prohibited. Boating with caution would still be permitted.

The DEQ website states the difference between a warning and a danger advisory: “Under a Warning Advisory there is potential for short-term effects (e.g., rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) or long-term illness.” It continues, “Under a Danger Advisory there is potential for short-term effects, long-term illness, or death.”

Recreators of Utah Lake and other bodies of water can stay updated on the water conditions by checking DEQ’s website or visiting the department on Instagram @utahdeq.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)