Multiple toxic algae reports worry parents, pet owners

In Grays Harbor County they've had two reports of toxic algae this week, including at Vance Creek Pond 2 in Elma.

Reports of toxic algae are popping up across Washington.

Health officials are recommending people and their pets stay out of the water.

In Grays Harbor County they’ve had two reports of toxic algae this week, including at Vance Creek Pond 2 in Elma.

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Grays Harbor County’s Environmental Health director said the reported algal blooms are consistent with toxic algae. The county issued a general advisory until more information is obtained from a laboratory analysis.

“I have been very cautious, because I’ve heard about it, to not let [my dogs] in the water,” said Deanna Mitchell.

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Toxic algae can be deadly. The Washington State Department of Health posted caution signs around the lake.

“It's heartbreaking. I can't imagine. I don't want to lose my kids, that's, they're my kids,” said Mitchell.

For Kevin Karkoski, the warning came a little too late.

"My wife started to freak out a little bit,” he said.

Karkoski’s family spent three days camping and swimming at Lake Sylvia in Montesano, which is another area that's being tested for toxic algae.

He said he didn’t know about the warning until Wednesday and would’ve kept his kids out of the water.

"Information is important and I wish they'd pass that onto us,” said Karkoski.

The Department of Ecology said they've taken more toxic algae reports this year than in years past. The warm spring weather could be partly to blame.

"You see them as often green, sometimes they're blue or reddish or other colors,” said Holly Davies, Washington State Department of Health senior toxicologist.

Not all blooms are poisonous, but it's impossible to tell just by looking at them. Toxic blooms can lead to nerve and liver poisoning and, in serious cases, death.

“We’ll see numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, also, dizziness, we'll also see convulsions,” said Davies.

If people or pets begin showing symptoms after being in the water, Davies said they need to get medical treatment right away.

According to the Department of Ecology, there are steps people can take to keep toxic algae away:
•    Maintain your septic system
•    Manage waterfowl
•    Use recommended landscape practices
•    Control runoff and soil erosion
•    Reduce or eliminate use of fertilizers
•    Properly dispose of pet wastes
•    Wash vehicles away from the lake
•    Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides

If water tests positive for toxic algae, the Washington State Department of Health recommends retesting the water once a week until water levels are safe. 
Recreational use should be avoided until levels drop below recommended guidelines.