Reduction in Algae Changes Lakewood Lakes Status

Lakewood, WA – In mid-October, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) changed the status of two Lakewood lakes due to significant reductions in algae present in the lakes. “The amount of toxic algae has declined significantly at both lakes so we are able to change our Closed Advisory to a Warning Advisory for Waughop Lake and our Warning Advisory to a Caution Advisory for Lake Steilacoom,” stated Ray Hanowell, TPCHD Environmental Health Specialist.

In August 2011, TPCHD issued a Closed Advisory for Waughop Lake in Fort Steilacoom Park due to high levels of toxic algae. Microcystin, a toxin produced by naturally occurring algae, had reached levels that could be fatal to pets and possibly people. TPCHD and the City of Lakewood Parks Department made the decision to close the lake to protect the community from the health risks posed by toxic algae.

Lake visitors should use the following cautions when on or near the lakes: keep children and pets away from areas that have a moderate or heavier amount of algae (looks like green paint); do not swim, wade, fish, or water ski in areas that have a moderate or heavier amount of algae; and keep all pets away from the water. Appropriate signage is located at the public access points of both lakes.

TPCHD’s surface water team and community volunteers have been monitoring the lakes regularly to measure levels of microcystin. Toxin concentrations vary greatly, but some lakes are more prone to algae blooms than others. Waughop Lake is a small kettle lake, fed by storm water runoff and precipitation with no outfall. Less daylight and cooler temperatures are likely contributors to the reduced levels. For more information about toxic algae and the Surface Water Program, visit http://www.tpchd.org/environment/surface-water-lakes-beaches-shellfish/toxic-algae-cyanobacteria/ .