Unsafe toxin detected in algae blooms on Rufus Woods Lake

Published July 22, 2016

SEATTLE – An unusually high level of an unsafe naturally occurring toxin was detected in algae blooms at Rufus Woods Lake, prompting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ officials to post Washington State Department of Health warnings against swimming, water skiing and other in-water activities at the lake near Bridgeport, Washington.

The toxin of concern is anatoxin-a, a nerve toxin produced by some blue-green algae blooms found in water bodies throughout the state. The toxin can be lethal to animals if ingested at high enough concentrations.

Samples of floating algae blooms were taken and forwarded to King County Environmental Laboratories for testing and analysis. Test results indicate that samples contained 1300 anatoxin-a micrograms per liter of water, significantly higher than results from early July when two micrograms per liter were detected.

While it’s safe to eat properly cleaned and gutted fish, the water should not be consumed and steps should be taken to keep livestock and pets away from the water. Boaters are advised to avoid areas where algae blooms are present.

The Washington Department of Ecology and Washington Department of Health notified the Corps that the analyzed samples are in excess of the state recommendation of one microgram per liter for recreational uses of the water. Samples will continue to be taken and analyzed weekly until anatoxin-a levels are determined to be below state recreational guidance values.

Access to Rufus Woods Lake remains open to the public.

For more information about toxic blooms, visit the Department of Ecology algae website at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/algae/index.html.

Release no. 16-027