Toxic Algae Blooms: What You Need to Know

Algae blooms are one of the most common problems in lakes and ponds of all sizes. They are also one of the most difficult to remediate. Excessive algae growth is a sign that the ecosystem of your lake or pond is out of balance. Effective control requires addressing the underlying problems and performing ongoing maintenance and monitoring to prevent them from recurring.

If you’re concerned about harmful algae blooms in your lake or pond, read on to learn more about the risks and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

What Is An Algae Bloom?

Phytoplankton are microscopic algae that is present in any aquatic ecosystem. In a well-managed lake or pond, they play an important role in producing nutrients and maintaining the health of fish and other native flora and fauna. However, when a lake or pond’s ecosystem is out of balance, it can lead to unchecked growth of algae populations, known as blooms.

Algae blooms are most common in the spring and summer months, when sunlight and rising water temperatures create ideal conditions for growth. They have a characteristic appearance, often described as “pea soup-like” or “like spilled paint.” Algae blooms can be blue, green, gray, red, brown or a number of additional colors.

If you know or suspect that your lake has an algae problem, do not drink from or swim in it. Certain harmful algae bloom toxins can make humans or animals very sick.

Why Are Algae Blooms Harmful?

Algae blooms are harmful because, they can contain toxins. Cyanobacteria — also known as blue-green algae — can contain powerful toxins associated with a number of negative health consequences, including:

  • Skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions such as rashes and sores, asthma and other conditions
  • Stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and potentially even long-term liver damage

The toxins in algae blooms affect both humans and animals. Pets, livestock and wild animals that drink pond water contaminated with cyanobacteria can become very sick due to toxic algae poisoning.

Toxic Algae Blooms and the Ecosystem

Cyanobacteria isn’t the only serious problem associated with toxic algae blooms. Excessive algae growth throws aquatic ecosystems completely out of balance, depriving fish and plants of oxygen and important nutrients. This can lead to the creation of dead zones — also known as hypoxia — in larger bodies of water.

Runoff from contaminated lakes and ponds can have major consequences as well. Nearby watersheds can become tainted, causing the problem to spread and potentially affecting the supply of drinking water or water used for agriculture.

How Can Algae Problems Be Corrected?

Fixing harmful algae blooms requires correcting the underlying problems that led to their growth in the first place. Because the toxins in algae blooms can spread rapidly, early intervention is key. This can include a combination of product, mechanical, physical and biological interventions. Adding an aerator or fountain or introducing beneficial fish populations are other options that should be considered as well.

Once steps have been taken to correct the problem, ongoing monitoring is essential. If you plan on using your lake or pond for recreation, professional testing is absolutely required before exposing yourself to a potentially harmful situation.

Your Partner for Algae Management

If you suspect your lake or pond is experiencing a harmful algae bloom, contact Aquatic Environment Consultants (AEC) right away. We can provide testing and consulting to assess the severity of the problem and develop a comprehensive remediation plan. Call or email our office for assistance.