Toxic Algae In Utah Lake Sickens Over 100 People [Video]

A massive bloom of toxic blue-green algae is wrecking havoc on a lake in Utah this summer. That lake, one of the biggest west of the Mississippi, has been closed for roughly two weeks due to the nearly-unprecedented toxic algae infestation that has sickened over 100 people and put a huge strain on much-needed irrigation water supplies in many local farming communities.

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Utah Lake covers nearly 150-square miles, and as of this weekend, nearly the entire surface area is covered with the toxic algae bloom. In addition to being poisonous, the blue-green algae is unsightly and has turned the lake, normally a source of fresh water and a summer recreation draw for Utah County residents, an unnatural and filthy-looking green color.

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According to Utah County Health Department Jason Garrett added that the toxic algae bloom in Utah Lake smells terrible, and neither local residents nor professionals have any idea when it is going to end, reports Fox News.

“It smells like something is rotting. We don’t have an idea of how long this event will last.”

Fortunately for Utah residents, Utah Lake isn’t a source for potable drinking water in the state; however, the lake does provide recreation and irrigation water. In the midst of a very hot and dry summer, local farmers are definitely struggling to deal with the toxic algae infestation. When toxic algae was first discovered in Utah Lake, local farmers and ranchers were advised by authorities not to use the water to sustain crops.

The Utah Lake toxic algae bloom has gotten so bad that it has expanded beyond the 150-mile surface area of the lake and into one of its tributaries, the Jordan River. The Jordan River is an irrigation water source for many farmers in Utah, and many of those farmers are now worried that their crops will fail as a result of the unexpected algae bloom.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this crop, maxed out every dollar we have. We’re real worried about it.”

The toxic algae bloom at Utah Lake caused state officials to close down the entire lake, a popular summer destination, to recreation activities including swimming, boating and fishing. Despite warnings from authorities and signs posted around the lake, over 100 people in the state have reportedly gotten sick as a result of the algae bloom. Local poison control officials say that the primary symptoms of exposure to the toxic algae are rashes, headaches, diarrhea and nausea/vomiting.

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Utah Lake has dealt with toxic algae blooms in the past, but never anything on this scale. Experts believe that a combination of unlikely conditions worked together to contribute to a “perfect storm” that made Utah Lake the ideal environment for cyanobacteria to grow and thrive.

Utah Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the west, is primarily fed by agricultural runoff and “treated wastewater,” according to the Utah Division of Water Quality. In the past, the lake has had a terrible reputation for being dirty and polluted, but in recent years, the State of Utah has worked diligently to clean up the lake and repair its image among locals who often avoided recreating at the lake.

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A hot, dry summer has led to extremely low water levels in the lake, making it warmer and more stagnant than usual. Combined with the high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the wastewater and runoff that feed the lake, a nearly perfect environment for the toxic algae to thrive has evolved. Because the scope of the current bloom in Utah Lake is unprecedented, nobody knows how long it will continue, and there’s nothing much that environmentalists can do to stave it off.

It has been reported that, in response to the current algae bloom, local officials are making plans to attempt to prevent future incidents. Plans include reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake.

For now, locals will simply have to wait for the toxic algae bloom in Utah Lake to run its course.

[Image via Shutterstock]