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Blue-green algae warnings unprecedented in North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Health and the Agriculture Animal Health Division have issued a blue-green algae advisory for Harvey Reservoir in Wells County.

Signs have been posted around the lake by the Harvey Park District since last Friday to notify the public that swimming in or drinking the water near the algae blooms is dangerous for people and livestock. Mike Ell is with the health department's environmental health section. He says so far this year there have been blue-green algae also identified in Patterson Lake, Lake LaMoure, Twin Lakes, Green Lake and Powers Lake. He says this is the most cases of the algae ever reported to the health department.

"Definitely, the number of advisories and warnings due to blue-green algae blooms is increased this year. Last year we had one on Homme Reservoir, but you know this year is unprecedented in terms of advisories. I would say that's because of the awareness that's out there - you know the public, the park boards, lake users are more familiar with what blue-green algae are and what the risks are. So we're getting more reports this year than ever before."

Production of blue-green algae happens during hot weather in bodies of water that are used by people, pets and livestock. Exposure can result in illness or death in people and animals. Ell says blue-green algae discolors the water it lives in and can cause foam, scum, or mats to appear on the surface. He says any bodies of water with blue-green algae advisories posted should be avoided, and that fish caught in the water should be thoroughly cleaned before eating.