HELENA – Many people flock to Montana’s lakes to cool down during the hot summer months.
The Montana Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ) and the Department of Human Health Services (DPHHS) are cautioning that as temperatures make a staggering climb, so does the chances of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS).
HABS are caused by a blue-green-like algae that is indigenous to Montana’s fresh lake water and reservoirs. This toxic species predominately grows in shallow, warm-water areas where there is more sunlight for growth.
Due to increased water temperatures, in turn, nitrogen in the water — as well as a high-level of phosphorus run-off (caused by varies human activities) — harmful to algal blooms can produce toxins that damage skin, liver and nerve cells.
“Most commonly, I get reports of people experiencing a rash or itchiness on their skin; they can have diarrhea or nausea or headaches,” DEQ Water Quality Specialist Hannah Riedl explained.
“We have received several reports of people’s dogs dying or cattle dying…so, especially with dogs and children you know, because they’ll just jump straight into the water and very easily ingest it,” she added.
The HABS report to the public has reported several blooms in the Hauser Reservoir since the middle of the month.
“Usually, you’ll see what almost looks like grass clippings — that’s a species of blue-green algae that we typically see around this area,” said NorthWestern Energy Water Quality Specialist Jordan Tollefson.
“Like floating grass clippings that will start to form mats and as they die-off, they turn almost a turquoise color and that’s the best way to identify the blue-green algae,” Tollefson said.
He continued, “if you do see blue-green algae — which comes across almost like a blue-latex paint color, or light-green color floating on the surface — they can produce toxins and so what we like to tell people is to be cautious about that…and if you do see really bad algae bloom, try to not let your children or pets swim in there.”
-Christine Sullivan reporting for MTN News