Idaho's Lake Lowell Dealing With Big Algae Bloom

Aug 28, 2017

Algae blooms occur when the mixture of nutrients in the water, sunshine and water temperature are just right.
Credit MPCA Photos / Flickr

Officials issued a health warning after dangerous levels of toxic blue-green algae were detected in Lake Lowell west of Boise. The blooms are turning the shores of the lake into a murky batch of pea soup.

The Department of Environmental Quality along with Southwest District Health put the advisory out warning people to steer clear of the water.

Aaron Scheff, a regional administrator at DEQ, says the algal bloom is caused by the perfect mix of sunlight, nutrients in the water and temperature. His colleague, water quality manager Lance Holloway, says the Lake Lowell bloom is an annual event.

“We had that nice long spring; New York Canal was flowing pretty good, so we had a lot of flushing through Lake Lowell,” he says. “It didn’t start stagnating until this time of year, and it’s a little lower too.”

Holloway says the algae blooming at Lake Lowell is the same kind harvested for nutritional supplements in Oregon’s Klamath Lake. While collected for commercial purposes, he warns this bloom could be dangerous.

“This blue-green algae at these counts can become toxic if ingested at a certain level,” says Holloway.

The message he has for people thinking about going to the lake is a simple one.

“Stay out of the water,” he says with force. “If you see surface scum, stay out of the water. The Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge is posting signage, so if you see signage, be aware of that.”

The DEQ is also warning pet owners to protect their four-legged friends by keeping them out of the algae-tainted water. The Department offers an advisory about dangerous water and words to live by on their website: “When in doubt, stay out.”

The agency offers a map highlighting all the algal blooms in the state.

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