Harmful algae bloom in Lee Lake

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, June 30, 2022

Potentially toxic cyanobacteria have formed a harmful algal “bloom” (HAB) in Lee Lake (Nottoway Lake) in Nottoway County just north of Blackstone. This type of blue-green algae may produce a toxin that can cause rashes and other illnesses. The Virginia Department of Health warns visitors to stay out of the water, and to keep their pets out, too. Due to relatively low body weight, children and pets are at greater risk of severe illness if they ingest the water. Pets also can fall ill if they get wet and then lick their fur.

HABs occur when warm water and nutrients combine to create favorable growing conditions for algae. They can become so dense that they turn the water green or bluish-green and form scummy clumps on the water surface which look like paint. Activities that may result in accidental ingestion, such as swimming, pose the greatest health due to the potential for this algae to produce toxins. Activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, which are not likely to result in submersion of a person’s head below the water, may continue with proper caution to avoid water contact. Those harvesting fish from the waterbody during the bloom may do so safely providing they clean the filets and cook to proper temperature, while discarding the carcass and viscera, and cleaning the knife, cutting board, and hands thoroughly with soap and water.

“The Piedmont Health District is collaborating with the Department of Environmental Quality, who will conduct follow-up sampling,” said David Waldrep, environmental health manager senior, Piedmont Health District. “We also are working with the Department of Wildlife Resources to coordinate announcements, post signs and to inform visitors of Lee Lake of the bloom so they may take care to avoid contact with the water.”

Advisories may be lifted following two acceptable water samples, taken 10 days apart, containing cyanobacteria cell concentrations and toxins below safe swimming levels.

To prevent illness due to cyanobacteria exposure, people should follow these healthy water habits:

• Never allow people or pets to drink untreated water.

• Avoid contact with any waterbody with discolored water, water that smells bad, or has an advisory sign.

• Keep children and pets out of advisory areas. If contact with bloom water cannot be avoided (i.e. to launch a boat), quickly wash skin or fur with plenty of clean fresh water.

If you experience symptoms after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical care and let the provider know about your exposure to the bloom water.

To report algal blooms, submit via the Online HAB Report Form. Anyone who suspects they have experienced an algae-related health effect can report your illness to the Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 888-238-6154. For more information or to see where other algae advisories have been issued visit http://www.SwimHealthyVa.com.