South Sound News

Toxic algae bloom reported in popular Pierce County lake

A toxic algae bloom has been reported in part of Lake Tapps, seen here in May 2014. Photo: Peter Haley News Tribune file 

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on Thursday warned of potentially toxic algae in the northeast region of Lake Tapps off the east shore of Tapps Island.

Health Department staff sent a sample of the algae to a laboratory to determine if it is toxic, according to a news release from the agency. Results are expected next week.

The Health Department cautioned lake-goers to avoid areas with algae and reported that as weather and wind changes, the location of the algae could shift. Waters without algae are deemed safe.

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Toxic algae, also known as blue-green algae, can produce toxins with the potential to kill pets, water life and other animals. The toxins can cause serious illness or death in people as well, according to the Health Department.

The toxic algae reproduces at a high rate in fresh water with a lot of sunlight, high temperatures and sufficient nutrients. The algae can look similar to “green paint” and can be several inches thick near shorelines, according to the news release. The algae is naturally occurring but has likely increased as human activities increase.

Skin contact can cause an irritation or rash. Consumption can lead to muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. The onset of symptoms can come within minutes to hours. Those who believe they may have consumed toxic algae are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention.

Pets, who have an increased risk of exposure, can experience the same symptoms as their owners as well as lethargy, convulsions and difficulty breathing. People are encouraged to rinse off their pets immediately and prevent them from licking their fur if they are thought to have contacted the algae.

Other tips to protect yourself and your pet:

  • Do not drink the lake water
  • Avoid swimming or water skiing in waters with visible algae
  • Keep pets away

If there is visible algae in an area without a posted Health Department sign, people are encouraged to notify the department by calling 253-798-6470.