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Health alert for harmful algal blooms issued for Bluestem Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir

LINCOLN, Neb. – A health alert for harmful algal blooms, also known as toxic blue-green algae, has been issued at Bluestem Lake in Lancaster County and Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County.

Visitors to Bluestem and Willow Creek state recreation areas should avoid full-body contact activities that could lead to swallowing water, such as swimming, wading, skiing or jet skiing. Non-contact activities such as boating, fishing and camping are OK. Dog owners are urged to keep pets out of the water and not allow them to ingest lake water.

Samples taken by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy earlier this week at Bluestem and Willow Creek were above the health alert threshold of 8 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin, which is a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.

This is a lower threshold than previous years, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations. Previously, the state had set a limit of 20 ppb, but adopted the new limits after concluding that the new EPA threshold is based on the best scientific evidence available, and is protective of public health.

Lakes with beaches and those that allow power boating are tested weekly through the summer, and sampling results will be updated every Friday. Health alerts are lifted immediately when algal toxin levels are below 8 ppb. To view weekly data for the lakes sampled, visit deq-iis.ne.gov/zs/bw/.

For more information on harmful algal blooms, read this Fact Sheet.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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