'Enter water at your own risk.' Algae at California lakes poses risk

A man helps dock a boat at the Trimmer boat ramp at Pine Flat Lake in 2011.
A man helps dock a boat at the Trimmer boat ramp at Pine Flat Lake in 2011. Fresno Bee file

Blue-green algae has been detected in three central San Joaquin Valley lakes that poses a public health risk.

Algae blooms have been popping up at Pine Flat Lake since the middle of June, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned. Friday, the Corps added warnings for two more lakes under its control, Eastman and Hensley in Madera County.

The Corps said this week that while the algae, cyanobacteria, was detected in June 15 water samples at Pine Flat, toxin levels were not present in recent tests. Still, signs warning of the algae have been posted around the lake as a precaution.

Officials said the conditions of the algae bloom are evolving on a daily basis. It usually occurs in the shallows where water is warmer.

Check the Pine Flat Lake website for updated information about the bloom there. More information is available by calling the park office at 559-787-2589.

Rangers at all three lakes are urging visitors to follow all recommendations on signs, and “When in doubt, stay out.”

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Children and dogs are particularly susceptible to toxins from algae blooms, which can look scummy and thick like paint and are pea-green or blue-green in color.

Officials are warning of algae blooms across the U.S. with growing frequency, the Associated Press reported. The trend represents another impact of global warming and raises questions about long-term health effects.

Algae blooms have been linked to animal deaths, and high doses of the toxins in humans can cause liver damage and attack the nervous system.

California waterways were exploding with potentially toxic algae blooms in 2016, another fallout from the prolonged drought.

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge