Blue-Green Algae Bloom Closes Spring Harbor Beach
Water Quality Monitoring Underway in Dane County
On Wednesday, Public Health Madison & Dane County closed Spring Harbor beach (1918 Norman Way, Madison) for swimming due to a large blue-green algae bloom in the water.
Blue-green algae is a group of bacteria known as cyanobacteria. Contact with these toxins can cause symptoms like stomach upset, rashes, and respiratory irritation. Dogs who ingest harmful algal blooms can also get sick and sometimes die.
“We’re seeing early-season blue-green algae blooms this year-- a trend we're noticing more often with changing weather patterns due to climate change. While blooms can vary in their appearance, in this case it almost appears like ‘spilled paint’ on the water. The bloom is turquoise in color with white scum floating on top,” says Jennifer Lavender-Braun, Microbiologist for Public Health Madison & Dane County.
This closure, which came after confirming reports of blooms, comes as Public Health Lab staff begin their annual water quality monitoring at local beaches, which goes from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
“During the summer months, we test water weekly at the beaches for the bacteria E. coli and also for blue-green algae. If a test shows concerning results, we post signs at the beach and update our beach website, indicating that people should stay out of the water,” continues Lavender-Braun.
After initiating a closure, Public Health Laboratory staff check the water quality each weekday until results return to acceptable levels. Once that happens, staff remove the signs at the beach and update the website.
“Conditions can change quickly, so it’s important to both check the conditions online before you head out. But even if the beach is open, if you see algal blooms in the water, it’s best to stay away,” said Lavender-Braun.
Should people discover they are in the water near a bloom, it is important that they avoid swallowing water and that they rinse off well when they get out. Dogs that have been in water near a bloom should also be rinsed well and a vet should be called if they seem ill after.
“If you think there’s an algae bloom at a beach, avoid the water and call us at (608) 243-0357 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We can send someone out to check on the water quality conditions at that beach,” continues Lavender-Braun.
Check to see if your beach is open by checking the online or sign up for beach condition alerts.