CHIMACUM — A dog that was exposed to a toxin in the water at Anderson Lake has died and its owner was exposed.
The death Sunday was the third dog death recorded since 2006, when two died and forced weekly testing of the lake the following year.
Clue, an Australian kelpie less than 2 years old, was on a leash on the trail system Sunday when she made contact with the water.
“The dog got in at one point up to its chest for no more than 30 seconds,” said Mike Moore of Poulsbo. “The dog either fell in or waded its way in, and my daughter pulled it back out because it was on a leash.”
The lake was closed last Thursday after a sample May 6 was found to have 9.5 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a, said Michael Dawson, water quality manager for Jefferson County Public Health.
Testing resumed in April following the last of the season in November. Low levels were found April 29, but since then, the toxin created by the blue-green algae has blossomed to an amount above the recreational threshold of 1 microgram per liter.
“It needs warmth and sunlight, and it also needs nutrients,” Dawson said. “At Anderson, there’s very little flow-through. It’s kind of a stagnant lake, so any nutrients that have gotten in over the years, they keep getting recycled by the algae.”
Anatoxin-a can cause illness and death in both humans and animals within four minutes of being ingested, according to health authorities.
State Parks closed the lake for recreation including fishing, boating, and swimming. Visitors also were urged to keep pets out of the water. The 410-acre Anderson Lake State Park remained open to hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and other recreation.
In 2008, the lake set a worldwide record for the highest levels of anatoxin-a ever recorded, hitting 172,640 micrograms per liter.
Moore was at Anderson Lake State Park to celebrate Mother’s Day with his wife, Teresa, and daughter, Yunue, 20. The family recently adopted Clue as a rescue from a humane society in Yakima.
“She was extremely smart and very, very healthy,” Moore said. “She was checked totally by the vet before we adopted her.”
Posted signs said the lake was closed due to the toxin, and the boat ramp was roped off. But Moore said the trail system that approaches the lake was open.
The incident happened about 11:30 a.m., and Moore said a couple of people around the trail suggested they get the dog to see a vet as soon as possible.
After Moore’s daughter searched online about the toxin from her phone, they started to seek emergency care.
“By the time [my daughter] got the dog back to the car, the dog was having trouble walking, and she had slight tremors,” Moore said.
They drove to an emergency animal hospital in Silverdale, but the dog’s symptoms got worse and was euthanized at about 2:30 p.m., Moore said.
“She was my daughter’s baby,” Moore said.
The family later took Yunue to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after she had skin exposure and vomited that evening, Moore said.
“She was holding the dog in her arms and lap,” Moore said. “She got the green algae on her skin. The chief toxicologist for the state of Washington said she had been exposed, and it was a good thing we took her to the hospital.”
“Her neurological screen and blood tests revealed no signs of her body reacting to the toxin, but the exposure she received was enough to go to the ER,” Moore said. “The headache and vomiting probably had more to do with stress and not having eaten all day.”
Toni Droscher, a communications manager for state parks, which manages the recreation area at Anderson Lake, said the agency coordinates with Jefferson County Public Health and posts signs and alerts when they are recommended.
“It’s very toxic, and it’s also naturally occurring,” Droscher said. “It happens every year at that lake, and it goes on through a lot of the year. It usually happens right after opening day of fishing season.”
Blue-green algae, like that found in Anderson Lake, are naturally occurring and found in freshwater lakes across the state. However, sometimes these blooms produce toxins that are released into the water.
Toxins have not been found in Clallam County lakes.
To check on lake status in Jefferson County, see tinyurl.com/PDN-jeffcolakestatus.
Moore says the signs warn people not to fish in the lake, but the trails and other areas remain open.
“They say, ‘Warning: Toxin,’ ” Moore said. “But they still have their signs up showing dogs on a leash.
“You can die from that stuff,” he added. “If they have the boat ramp area taped off, why not the trail area?”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.