Outdoors

Health warning issued for Lake Lowell. Be careful near this water, officials say

Cyanobacteria in Idaho water

Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water.
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Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water.

Swimmers may want to think twice about heading to Lake Lowell in Nampa this weekend after high concentrations of toxin-producing cyanobacteria were found in the water.

The toxins can be harmful to people, pets and livestock, according to a health advisory from Southwest District Health and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. People with kidney and liver damage are especially at risk.

“Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies,” according to a news release. “When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water. Blooms can vary in appearance, and may look like mats, foam, spilled paint or surface scum, and have a foul odor.”

When recreating near the water, residents are encouraged to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid swimming, wading or other activities.
  • Do not drink or cook with water containing a bloom. Boiling and filtering the water can increase the risk.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling fish caught in water experiencing a bloom. Cyanotoxins can accumulate in fish, and the risk to people is being researched. Any fish caught should be cleaned and washed thoroughly in uncontaminated water and any internal organs disposed of before consumption. If people choose to eat fish from this area, filet the fish and remove all of the fat, skin, and organs before cooking.
  • Clean pets with fresh water if their skin or fur touches the water.

Symptoms of exposure to cyanotoxins can include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing and wheezing. More severe symptoms affecting the liver and nervous system may result from ingesting water.

If symptoms persist, residents should consult a health care provider.

Lake Lowell is part of the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.
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