Neurotoxic algae bloom that shuts down Utah Lake can affect brain, liver

Neurotoxic Algae Bloom that shuts down Utah Lake can affect brain, liver (Photo: Heidi Hatch / KUTV)

(KUTV) Utah's Department of Environmental Quality shut down Utah Lake and all water activity due to a growing toxic algae bloom. The algae releases a neuro toxin that can affect brain, nervous system and liver function.

The Utah County Department of Health says the algae can be deadly and anyone who has been on the water needs to watch for symptoms and call poison control if they have been on the water and feel sick. Utah Poison Control can be reached at 800-222-1222.

Symptoms that will show up within three to five hours of exposure include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration is the biggest concern. If you can't hold fluids down for 24 hours call your doctor. Rare symptoms are liver toxicity that can cause death.

At Utah Lake State Park, the owner of Utah Paddle boards spent his day calling customers and informing them the lake was not safe. He's doing his best to keep people happy by delivering boats, jet skis and paddle boards to other lakes in the area.

"This morning we did take a couple guys out surfing and we did start to notice the algae was collecting right outside the marina," said Joe Arvae of Utah Paddle Boards. He said he has not felt any ill effects from the water and neither have his employees.

It was business as usual for Arvae this morning. It wasn't until noon when the department of environmental quality made the call to shut the lake down.

"Any decision to close the lake or reopen it will be up to the public health officials," according to Erica Gaddis with the DEQ.

The Utah County Health Department is advising the current level of algae bloom poses serious health risks at three times the limit of toxin in the water beyond the world health organization's advised closure.

Symptoms can include gastrointestinal symptoms, skin rashes, an allergic reaction. The DEQ says exposures is at its worst if you are in the water.

"We are talking about exposure through water itself. Some of the toxins can be aerosolized, so if you are out on the water skiing, or breathing in the water, particles can be a concern."

While boat ramps have been shut down to keep people out of the water, the day-use area is still open. The water has a definite stench to it, but people are still walking around near the lake. Most of those people, if you are wondering, are looking for Pokemon.

The toxic bloom is fed by nutrients flowing into the lake mixed with low water levels and high temperatures. DEQ said "the largest source of nutrients to Utah lake come from waste water treatment plants that distribute into the lake itself or tributaries into the lake or the lake itself."

The bloom seen growing on a time lapse shows how quickly the bloom grew. It was first called in to the state on Wednesday, how long it's been a health hazard no one knows.

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