JEFFERSON COUNTY, OR -- The Oregon Health Authority has lifted a health advisory for Lake Billy Chinook, issued June 25. Water monitoring a the popular Jefferson County reservoir confirm the level of blue-green algae toxins are now well below dangerous levels for humans. However, the OHA recommends people continue to be cautious with pets, since levels are still above the very low exposure levels established for dogs. Jonathan Modie with the Oregon Public Health Division tells KBND, "Dogs have a particularly low threshold for getting sick. In other words, dogs are particularly vulnerable to getting sick or even dying if they have contact with the water. One reason is dogs, when they go in the water, they’re very active, they have a tendency to ingest the water, to drink it. Their bodies are less tolerant to the toxins."
Modie says our drought conditions could bring more warnings to Central Oregon. "[Blue-green algae] can be fed by just the sun, warm conditions, warm conditions of the water. So, I would say this summer, we are expecting to see a lot of algae blooms and thus, a lot of advisories. That said every year is a bad algae bloom year, and every year we see a number of these advisories being issued and encourage people to avoid contact with the water in those areas." He adds, "As water levels drop, water temperature can increase. When the temperature is warmer, algae blooms have a tendency to kind of stick around longer until conditions are such that the bloom may break up. That could be overnight, very sudden cold temperatures; if there’s rain, sometimes that can drop the temperatures enough to cause the algae bloom to die."
Officials advise visitors be alert to signs of algae blooms on bodies of water in Oregon, because only a fraction of the state's many lakes are monitored for blue-green algae. The OHA says humans and pets should avoid contact with water that is foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish-red, or if a thick mat of blue-green algae is visible.
For health information, to report human or pet illnesses due to blooms, or to ask questions, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0400. Information also can be found at the OHA website.