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Toxic Algal Bloom Prompts Closure of Utah Lake

State officials closed Utah Lake on Friday due to health concerns from a large algal bloom. The Utah Department of Health is warning against using the lake for swimming, boating and other types of recreation.

Satellite images show an algal bloom stretching over a mile from Provo Bay to the State Park Harbor. Water samples taken earlier in the week showed toxin levels from the algae were three times the safe level.

Jodi Gardberg is an environmental project manager with the state Division of Water Quality. She says algal blooms aren’t new to Utah Lake, which can provide the perfect growing conditions.

“Algal blooms arise from hot temperatures, lots of nutrients in the water and calm weather,” Gardberg says. “They are dynamic. They pop up, and then they dissipate.”

The Utah County Health Department has issued advisories about toxic algal blooms before, but this is the first time the issue has led to closure of the entire lake.  Algae toxins were suspected of killing a dog that swam and consumed water near the Lindon marina in 2014.

The health department has already received reports of people feeling sick from the water.

“Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions from skin contact” are all symptoms to look out for, says Gardberg. She says anyone who has swam in Utah Lake recently and who is experiencing those symptoms should call Utah Poison Control at 800-222-1222 or their physician. Concerns about pets who may have been exposed should be taken to a veterinarian.

Health officials have also advised against eating fish and boiling water from the lake. They say even though algae might not be visible, the water is dangerous and should be avoided until further notice. 

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