Ore. lake could have advisory lifted by the 4th

From OPB News
June 22, 2009

TRAIL, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to get a health advisory lifted at a popular reservoir before the start of the Fourth of July weekend.

Tests this week on water samples collected Friday could prompt state health officials to quicken the lifting of their advisory against contact with water at Lost Creek Lake, northeast of Medford.

The advisory took effect earlier this month after the discovery of high levels of a blue-green algae known as anabaena flos-aquae.

The Oregon Department of Human Services does not typically end such advisories until two weeks after tests show levels below thresholds deemed safe by the World Health Organization. But the state can speed the process if other tests also show safe levels of two algae-related toxins that can sicken people.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered the extra tests, which cost about $400, in hopes the advisory will be lifted before the holiday weekend.

“We realize there’s an economic impact when you have a health advisory,” said Jim Buck, the Corps’ Rogue Basin project manager. “We’re in the recreation business. That’s part of our mission. We want to try to preserve the recreational benefit and the economic benefit during a major holiday weekend.”

Health officials issued the advisory after water sampled from the swim area showed levels of the blue-green algae as high as 16 times the threshold considered safe for contact.

When it dies, the algae, which actually is a bacteria, releases neurotoxins that can cause symptoms ranging from a skin rash and dizziness to rapid death. Documented reactions, however, have been extremely rare in Oregon.

It is the fourth consecutive year an algae bloom has hit Lost Creek Lake. The one last fall lasted four months.

This month’s bloom could be much shorter. Buck said the algae dissipated noticeably during the past week, leading to Friday’s sampling.

An end to the advisory would be good news for businesses that make their money from the swimmers, water-skiers and anglers who use the lake that consistently ranks among the state’s busiest.

“We need the whole season here but the Fourth of July, of course, is one of our biggest weekends,” said Doni Swearingen, who manages the Lost Creek Marina at Stewart State Park, whose campgrounds always fill that holiday.

“I’m going to think positive and assume it’s going to be gone,” Swearingen said.

Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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