LOUISA, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Health is warning lake goers about harmful levels of bacteria in areas of Lake Anna.
According to the department, the Pamunkey and North Anna Branches of Lake Anna in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties are experiencing a harmful algae bloom.
"The public is advised to avoid contact with the lake in some areas until algae concentrations return to acceptable levels," a news release from the department states.
"I don't even know if half of these people are even aware of the bacteria level in the lake or not," said Sharon White, who lives near the lake.
Preliminary tests collected August 15 showed elevated levels of a potentially harmful algae species Cylindrospermopsis in the middle section of the North Anna Branch of Lake Anna near Barnes Point (Holladay Bridge at the Louisa, Spotsylvania County line).
Those levels in this section of the lake pose a moderate to high-risk for human health effects.
Other tests showed harmful algae in the upper North Anna Branch of the lake near Red House Point (Rt. 621 and Woodberry Farm Road), and the middle Pamunkey Branch near Belmont Road.
Levels there are considered low risk for human health effects, but conditions are favorable to cyanobacterial growth.
"I'm hoping that everybody else is taking precautions and very much aware because we still see a lot of people out there on the Lake," White said.
Health effects cause by ingesting water or exposure to the skin can include skin rashes and gastrointestinal illnesses.
"We try to avoid getting water in our ears and mouth and stuff which is avoidable at times especially with the kids," White said.
To prevent illness, the Department of Health suggests:
- Avoid contact with any area of the lake where water is green or an advisory sign is posted.
- Do not allow children or pets to drink from natural bodies of water.
- Keep children and pets out of the areas experiencing a harmful algae bloom and quickly wash them off with fresh water after coming into contact with algae.
- If you or your animals experience symptoms after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical/veterinarian care.
- If you suspect you experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom, contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154
- To learn more about harmful algae blooms or to report an algae bloom or fish kill visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com
Algae blooms can happen when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth. The conditions have occurred recently with warmer temperatures and sunny weather after a large amount of rainfall over the last month.
Most algae species are harmless, but some could produce irritating compounds or toxins.
The Department of Health said multiple species of cyanobacteria capable of producing several toxins were detected in the August 15 samples.
"Samples screened for two toxins collected Aug. 15 were below levels which may pose a health risk, however the concentration of potentially harmful algae species indicate that toxins may be present or may develop in the area," the news release states. "Advisory signs have been posted in the area."
There are ways to help identify if an area of the lake is dealing with higher levels of bacteria. Discolored water or scums that are green or blueish-green are more likely to contain toxins.
"Just be vigilant of what's going on around you in the water, and the environment," White said.
The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force will continue to monitor water quality in the lake.
The advisories will be lifted following a minimum of two consecutive weeks of acceptable levels for algal cell counts and/or toxin concentration.
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