Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation warns about harmful algae bloom

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation is advising the public to stay away from a harmful algae bloom.

That goes for your pets too. The Foundation is keeping a close eye on the bloom that we're told can cause serious health problems for both humans and animals.

It's been hard to spot lately because of the rough, turbulent water. But, when the wind and lake calm down, you can see it clearly.

"We're advising not to come in contact with that material," said Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Water Quality Program Director, Brady Skaggs, Ph.D.,MSPH.

Skaggs says both direct and indirect contact can be dangerous. That's why experts say it's unsafe to swim in the lake where the blooms are and they're also warning boaters about exposure from water spray.

"There's a lot of symptoms that people can experience if they're exposed to a microcystin or some of the other cyanobacteria toxins,liver disease, kidney disease, neurological issues, there's some pretty serious consequences with that," said Skaggs.

The advice is the same for animals.

"There have certainly been instances where dogs have gone out swimming, jumped off a boat into an algae bloom and that can kill a dog if they're exposed to enough of it," said Skaggs.

Mandeville neighbor, Kelly Puissegur, has spotted the algae.

"That's kind of scary, I always have my dog with me and my little girl, I mean it looks like you shouldn't come in contact with it, it looks pretty scary," said Puissegur.

After learning it's dangerous, she'll be taking some precautions.

"It looks harmful so I assumed to stay away but now that I know for sure yeah we will probably go another route," said Puissegur.

The algae can also cause fish kills especially for oysters, clams and crabs. According to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, blooms are blue-green in color, appear scummy and emit an odor.

The Foundation believes the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway contributed to the algae bloom as the Mississippi River pushed a high concentration of nutrients into the lake.

"Don't seek it out, don't immerse yourself or be around that material because the wind and we have a lot of wind today that blow aerosolized droplets that you could be exposed to as well, you shouldn't go out looking for that material," said Skaggs.

One lake expert says the bloom is expected to increase in size for at least a week. He adds depending on the weather, the lake is expected to return to normal in the next two to three months.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation says it's working with the EPA to take samples of the new bloom, they want to see if the harmful toxins are detected and how much is in the algae.

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