Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

August 10, 2013

New to Kentucky

Algae blooms pose a threat to four lakes in the state

ASHLAND — As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed harmful algae blooms have been detected in four lakes in southwestern Kentucky this summer, marking the first time this type of bloom has ever been identified in the state. The lakes are Barren River, Taylorsville, Rough River and Nolin.

While swimming and other water-related at activities have not been banned at any of the lakes, corps officials are urging people who use the lakes to take precautions, including not swallowing water, washing well after swimming and removing skin from fish before eating it.

Corps spokesman Carol Labashosky said while the agency hasn’t confirmed any sicknesses related to the water, it has fielded several reports, including a pediatrician who said two siblings developed a rash and diarrhea after swimming in Taylorsville Lake.

Algae blooms previously have been detected in upper Midwest states, Ohio and Indiana. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says harmful algae blooms occur with slow-moving water with too many nutrients and sunlight. Some are natural, but nutrients in the water come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems and runoff containing fertilizer for farms and lawns. The fact that the four Kentucky lakes are all in farming areas may be one reason why the algae blooms have been detected there, but it also may reduce the chances of the algae bloom spreading to lakes in this area where farming is not as prevalent.

The four lakes are important to tourism in southwestern Kentucky. Together they draw about 5 million visitors a year, with much of it coming during the swimming season.

“The public must be cautious and consider adverse health effects of a harmful algae bloom before water skiing, swimming or wading,” Labashosky said.

Nolin Lake manager Chris Boggs said posted warnings about algae blooms in the lake have prompted a few to cancel campground reservations. “Swimmers may have been down a little last weekend,” he said, but overall there has been steady recreational use.

Of course, whether there are algae blooms or not, it is never a good idea to drink untreated water from lakes, and one should always shower thoroughly after being in the lake water. One hopes most who use the lake are already sowering and not drinking lake water. The algae blooms just give them an added reason to take precautions.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Division of Water is in the processs of developing a strategy to reduce nutrients. Peter Goodmann, assistant director of the Kentucky Division of Water, said a draft plan may be complete by September. Surely ways to reduce water pollution from farm runoff will be included in that plan.

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