By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
October 14, 2009, 5:04PM
This is not a good time to go for a brisk swim in Blue Lake east of Portland — and not just because of the weather.
The popular lake on Northeast Marine Drive is contaminated with toxins.
Recent tests show that the lake, which draws 300,000 people a year, has dangerous levels of blue-green algae.
Scott Paskill, manager of the area for Metro, the regional agency that manages part of the lake, said the lake was covered with a scum a few days ago but he said that conditions appear to be improving.
Officials have posted signs around the lake, warning people to stay away from the water and not to fish.
Blue-green algae flourish in warm weather and also when the seasons change, producing toxins that can contaminate fish and the water.
It is dangerous to eat shellfish or crayfish from tainted water, and officials recommend that the fat, skin and organs be removed from other fish before eating.
Contaminated water can irritate the skin as well and cause nausea, diarrhea and even liver damage. Children and pets are especially susceptible.
In August, high blue-green algae levels in Elk Creek in southern Oregon killed as many as four dogs, which suffered convulsions and died quickly after frolicking in the water during visits with their owners.
Paskill is not concerned about that happening at Blue Lake.
“We don’t allow pets in the park,” he said, “and no one is using the park right now.”
A month or two ago, when the weather was warmer, it would have been a different story.
Covering 64 acres, the lake is a popular fishing and swimming spot in summer for Portland-area residents.
Still, about 300 people live in the Fairview neighborhood, about 15 miles from downtown Portland. Paskill said they have been informed about the algae.
“It’s not like it’s the middle of summer,” he said, “but we do have to notify the public.”
For more information, call the state’s harmful algae program at 971-673-0400 or visit this Web page: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/hab.
— Lynne Terry