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article imageToxic algae bloom in Utah sickens over 100 people amid heat wave

By Karen Graham     Jul 23, 2016 in Environment
Provo - A toxic algae bloom has forced the closure of one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi River this weekend as much of the United States swelters under a massive and dangerous heat wave.
A massive dome of high pressure in the upper atmosphere is sitting over the nation's midsection, creating heat watches, warnings, and advisories for over 122 million people in 26 states, reports the CNN Weather Center.
In some parts of the central U.S., the heat index will hover around 115 degrees Fahrenheit as the monster system spreads toward the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states over the weekend. The heat index or indices is a combination of the temperature and humidity.
Temperatures are forecast to reach the upper 90s to 100 degrees along the East Coast, an are expected to remain with us through the first part of the coming week.
The forecast highs do not include the heat index that would bring the  feels like  temperatures even...
The forecast highs do not include the heat index that would bring the "feels like" temperatures even higher.
Weather Channel
Meteorological sites and public health agencies have posted warnings on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, giving advice on how to avoid heat-related injuries and information on how to stay hydrated.
Even though there are a number of agencies posting reminders, it is worth reminding people again to check frequently on the elderly and newborns during this heat wave because they are particularly vulnerable.
Utah Lake looks like a bowl of split-pea soup
Over 90 percent of the 150-square-mile, 10.5 foot deep, Utah Lake near the Provo-Orem metropolitan area in Utah, is covered in an anti-freeze colored, pea soup thick toxic blue-green algae.
Utah Lake in better times.
Utah Lake in better times.
Utah Lake Commission
Utah Poison Control is reporting that hundreds of people have called to report on the algae bloom, including 130 people who reported vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and rashes. Because the algae bloom has reached a river used for irrigating food crops, a warning was issued to farmers in the area.
The lake is largely fed by treated wastewater and agricultural run-off so that in itself is a sticky problem. Add to that the longstanding drought conditions that have assaulted the region, making the water level drop and the lake become stagnant, and it becomes the perfect petri dish for growing cyanobacteria, better known as blue-green algae.
The lake has only one outlet, the Jordan River, and it's a tributary of the Great Salt Lake. So with evaporation accounting for almost 42 percent of the lake's outflow, it is slightly saline.
“It smells like something is rotting,” said Jason Garrett, water quality director for the Utah County health department, reports The Guardian. “We don’t have an idea of how long this event will last.”
Luckily, Utah Lake is not used as a source of drinking water, but its closing during this heat wave is causing problems for people that use the lake for swimming, fishing and other activities, and particularly for farmers who use its water for irrigation.
More about toxic algae bloom, Utah Lake, dangerous heat wave, heat indices, heat dome
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