The Department of Ecology is warning residents to watch out for harmful algae (cyanobacteria) blooms in Washington lakes.
In a post from the department, they say that these blooms can happen every year, especially in late summer and fall months, but it’s impossible to guess how each lake will be affected due to changing climate conditions and unpredictable nutrient runoff.
They add that some lakes get regular blooms, some lakes rarely have blooms, and not every bloom is toxic.
Officials say that the only way to know for sure that toxins are present in an algae bloom is through laboratory testing.
“When in doubt, keep yourself and your pets safe by avoiding lakes with algae blooms and pay attention to warning and closure signs.”
The algae blooms are not uniform, and DOE says that they are hard to predict and difficult to identify.
Blooms can look different based on the Cyanobacteria present and lake conditions, with toxicity levels able to vary from day to day.
There are a few common characteristics of harmful algae blooms that DOE says residents can keep an eye out for:
- The appearance of slimy scum, foam, or growing clumps on the water
- Algae color can vary — blue-green, reddish-brown, pea soup green
- Looks like a paint spill on the water
Because harmful algae blooms can only be accurately identified by lab tests, it’s best to avoid blooms when you can.
If you spot a suspected bloom, contact the local lake manager.