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Harmful Algae Found in Five More Kentucky Lakes

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Harmful algae blooms have been identifiedin several more Kentucky lakes, including two in Jefferson County and one in Oldham County. This brings the total number of affected lakes to 15.These algal blooms have been in the news a lot lately, both in Kentucky and around the country. Earlier this month, the drinking water system in Toledo, Ohio shut down due to a harmful spike in algae in Lake Erie. And it seems every few weeks, the Kentucky Division of Water announces another lake that’s been found with high levels of algae.John Brumley from the Kentucky Division of Water says this year, it’s not necessarily that there are more blooms than usual in Kentucky. The state and federal government are testing more water bodies.“Long story short, probably, historically we’ve had this amount of blue-green blooms occurring throughout the state. It’s just that now we’re actually looking for it," he said.These algal blooms are a type of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. They can irritate your skin if you’re exposed to it for a prolonged amount of time. The algae can also cause nausea and other gastrointestinal problems.The two main factors that contribute to harmful algal blooms are nutrient pollution—like runoff from agricultural operations and sewage overflows—and warmer water.“Blue-greens are probably there all year round, but when you have higher light intensity, higher temperatures and you have, some people would use the word stagnant, water that’s not being agitated,” Brumley said. “All of those conditions make it favorable for these blue-green bacteria to start to multiply. And that’s what a bloom is.”Some studies have linked an increase in harmful algal blooms to climate change.Meanwhile in Kentucky, the Division of Water has issued advisories at the following lakes:

  • McNeely Lake (Jefferson County)
  • Long Run Lake (Jefferson County)
  • Reformatory Lake (Oldham County)
  • Campbellsville City Reservoir (Taylor County)
  • General Butler State Park Lake (Carroll County).
  • Greenbriar Creek Reservoir (Montgomery County)  
  • Guist Creek Lake (Shelby County)
  • Willisburg Lake (Washington County)
  • Carpenters Lake (Daviess County)
  • Taylorsville Lake (Spencer County)
  • Beaver Lake (Anderson County)  
  • Barren River Lake (Allen, Barren, and Monroe counties)
  • Nolin Reservoir (Edmonson, Grayson, and Hart counties)
  • Green River Lake (Adair, Taylor and Casey counties)
  • Rough River Lake (Breckinridge, Grayson and Hardin counties)

The lakes aren’t closed for recreational purposes, but the Division of Water recommends people take the following precautions to protect themselves:

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  • Direct contact with affected water, including swimming, wading, fishing, paddling, diving and water skiing may result in symptoms. It is advisable to avoid contact with water that has unusual color or where blue-green bacteria have been identified, even if the water appears to be clear.
  • People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with harmful algal blooms. Children may be particularly sensitive.
  • If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your local health care provider.
  • Fish fillets(not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, non-lake water. It is advisable to wash any parts of your body that have come into contact with the fish.
  • Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with HAB-infested waters

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.