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article imageCalifornia lakes turn a slimy green due to toxic algae

By Karen Graham     Sep 19, 2016 in Environment
Oakland - Toxic algae blooms have shown up in more than 40 lakes and waterways in California, from Los Angeles to the northern reaches of the state this summer, the worst ever seen.
The high number of reports of algae blooms have caught water agency officials off-guard and there are complaints about the lack of guidelines and protocols on how to handle the situation, reports the East Bay News.
There have been health warnings posted as lakes and water recreation areas have been closed, reducing the number of visitors and affecting the tourist trade at many parks. There have also been a number of pets that have died after drinking the nasty-looking green water.
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CA Water Board
"The algae caught everyone by surprise, and it was difficult to get clear guidance and protocols on what to do about it," said Carolyn Jones, an East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman, according to Fox News. "We went more than 80 years before we had a closure for this toxic substance in the drought."
Reports of the algae blooms have been spotty, at best this year, without any consistent records being kept. But now that agencies are getting their ducks in a row, it's turning out that the problem is far worse than previously thought, according to Beverley Anderson-Abbs, an environmental scientist with the state Water Resources Control Board.
After five years of continuing drought, the small amount of rainfall that delighted Californians this year had an unexpected and unwanted side-effect. All the nutrients that had built up on hillsides during those dry years washed into the waters during the rains.
The green slime is everywhere  including being in some reservoirs.
The green slime is everywhere, including being in some reservoirs.
CA Water Board
The naturally occurring blue-green algae, more properly known as cyanobacteria, are not algae but microorganisms that possess the characteristics of algae, meaning they possess chlorophyll-a, used in oxygenic photosynthesis. Rather than saying California lakes have a toxic algae problem, it is better to say that California lakes have a cyanobacteria HAB (Harmful algae bloom) problem.
Among the many waterways affected by the toxic algae are the Del Valle Reservoir near Livermore, Pyramid Lake near Los Angeles and Lake Elsinore in San Bernardino County, all of which have been closed at times this year.
Cunningham Lake, in San Jose, has been closed to boating and fishing for the first time ever, and Contra Costa County health officials have posted warning signs this year in some parts of Discovery Bay, a boater-oriented community.
Herbicides are being tested in some waters, but experts are saying there are no quick solutions. Not only that, but "testing" different herbicides is like playing with fire, and could end up creating even bigger problems. "There is no silver bullet," Anderson-Abbs said. "Generally, the best thing to do is to stay out of the water until the bloom is over."
More about Toxic algae, California, lakes and waterways, Warnings, Global warming