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Washtenaw County residents cautioned about potential toxic algal bloom in Ford Lake

Recent testing confirmed microcystin toxin present

A lake.
A lake. (WDIV)

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. – Officials with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Washtenaw County Health Department issued a public health advisory Thursday for a suspected harmful algal bloom (HAB) in Ford Lake.

People and pets should exercise caution and avoid direct body contact with scums in the lake, water that is blue-green, or water that looks like it has a green sheen or spilled paint on its surface.

There are different types of naturally occurring algal blooms that may be seen on lakes and rivers. Most are not harmful. However, there are some that are made of cyanobacteria that have the ability to produce toxins, causing a HAB.

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At Ford Lake, a resident notified MDHHS of a suspected HAB when they saw an area of water that had a “spilled paint” look on the surface Wednesday. Additionally, recent testing confirmed microcystin toxin in the water, indicating the possibility of a HAB, but inspectors did not observe one.

People can water ski, boat and tube but it is advised that caution be taken in doing so in areas with visible algal scums. Breathing in water droplets with algae from the boat spray may cause nose and throat irritation and swallowing large amounts of water containing cyanotoxins while swimming, wading, or playing in the water may cause flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal illness or neurotoxic symptoms.

These may include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, numbness, headaches, dizziness, or difficulty breathing.

Health officials said residents can take the following actions to remain safe:

  • You can swim in the water but stay away from water that has scums or mats, looks like spilled paint, or has colored streaks.
  • Keep children and pets away from algae in the water or on the shore.
  • Do not let pets or livestock drink the water or eat scum on the shore.
  • All fish should be caught and released and not consumed. Ford Lake is under a Do Not Eat Fish Advisory.
  • Do not drink water from lakes, ponds, or rivers.
  • Rinse people and pets off after swimming.
  • When in doubt, keep people and pets out of the water.
  • Call you doctor or veterinarian if you or your pet get sick after going in the water.

Take the following actions if an algal bloom is present:

  • Do not let your children or pets play in HAB debris on the shore.
  • After swimming or wading in lake water, even where no HABs are visible, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
  • Never swallow any lake or river water, whether you see HABs or not.
  • Do not let pets lick HAB material from their fur or eat HAB material.
  • Do not drink or cook with lake water.
  • See a doctor if you or your children might be ill from HAB toxins. If your pet appears ill, contact your veterinarian.
  • Do not water lawns, gardens, or golf courses with water from impacted lakes or ponds because it aerosolizes the water.

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