Lake Algae and Hazards it Poses to All

Photos above by Elizabeth Mendia
Photos below by Julie Giyer

By Elizabeth Mendia
Kern Valley Sun

No, a tanker truck full of Anderson’s Pea Soup did not careen off of Highway 178, plunging into Lake Isabella’s misty depths and lining its coves and points with a nearly luminous bright green goo.

As most residents know, in recent years the warmer months have been marked by the appearance of blue-green algae blooms, which are an overgrowth of several types of cyanobacteria, some of which can pose a hazard to humans, pets, and other animals.

The Kern County Public Health Department regularly monitors the levels of cyanobacteria in Lake Isabella and maintains a warning system consisting of posted signage and a website with a map of concentrations in specific areas. Areas designated on the map as “green” are safe to swim and recreate in and do not have any posted signage warning visitors.

However, areas marked as Yellow/Caution, Orange/Warning, or Red/Danger, have a corresponding set of progressively more stringent safety guidelines. For example, areas designated as Yellow/Caution are safe for adults to swim in, but visitors are advised to keep themselves, children, and pets away from visible concentrations of algae. Additional guidelines concerning the processing of fish and shellfish are available on the County website listed below and on the signs posted in the affected areas.

In areas designated as Red/Danger, however, visitors are advised to stay out of the water altogether. Pioneer Point, Paradise Cove, Kissak Cove, Stine Cove, and Camp 9 are currently listed in the Red/Danger category.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that cyanobacteria exposure in humans can cause skin, eye, nose, or throat irritation, headache, abdominal pain, or even neurological symptoms, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term effects of exposure are poorly understood.

The CDC additionally warns, however, that in pets ingestion of cyanobacteria can cause “serious diseases such as too much salivation, weakness, staggered walking, difficulty breathing, convulsions, or even death. Animals can die within hours to days of exposure.”

“If your animal gets in the water with a bloom, immediately wash it off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur,” advises the Kern County Public Health Department, “Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any of these symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning: loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, stumbling and falling, foaming at the mouth, diarrhea, convulsions, excessive drooling, tremors, and seizures, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water.”

In short, stay away from the algae, and while your seven-year-old may delight in a hearty rendition of that kid-classic Great Green Gobs, you most certainly do not want to ingest this particular blend of soup!

For additional information, readers may consider visiting the following websites: https://kernpublichealth.com/cyanobacteria-blooms-blue-green-algae/ and
https://www.cdc.gov/habs/general.html