High levels of blue-green algae in Blue Lake present possible health threats

August 28, 2012

The Oregon Health Authority is advising people has issued a warning that blue-green algae levels In Blue Lake are likely to be associated with dangerous cyanotoxin concentrations that can be harmful to humans and animals.


August 28, 2012

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, jonathan.n.modie@state.or.us
Technical questions: Rebecca Hillwig, 971-673-0431, rebecca.hillwig@state.or.us

Health advisory issued for Blue Lake 
High algae levels found at Blue Lake near Troutdale

A health advisory is being issued today due to high levels of blue-green algae in Blue Lake at Blue Lake Regional Park, located three miles northwest of Troutdale in Multnomah County. Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae that can produce toxins. These algae levels are likely to be associated with dangerous cyanotoxin concentrations in the water that can be harmful to humans and animals. 

Swallowing or inhaling water droplets should be avoided, as well as skin contact with water. 

Drinking water from Blue Lake is especially dangerous. Oregon Public Health officials advise Blue Lake visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.  

People who may draw in-home water directly from Blue Lake are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective in removing algae toxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier. 

Oregon health officials recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking since toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.

Additionally, public health officials advise that people should not eat freshwater clams or mussels from Blue Lake. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are particularly susceptible. 

The public will be advised when the concern no longer exists.   

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to visit Blue Lake and enjoy activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk. 

For local information contact Metro Parks at 503-797-1850.

For health information, contact the Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance (HABS) program at  971-673-0400 or www.healthoregon.org/hab; also contact the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 1-877-290-6767.

The HABS program maintains a current list of all health advisories on its website. To find out if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit www.healthoregon.org/hab and select “Check current water conditions.” 

The Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program is funded through September 2013 by a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.