Deadly algae closes Leland, Gibbs lakes to recreational use

PORT TOWNSEND — Both Lake Leland near Quilcene and Gibbs Lake in Chimacum have been closed to recreational use after toxic blue-green algae levels skyrocketed.

Neil Harrington, Jefferson County’s water quality program manager, was surprised Friday when he received the results of tests on water from the two lakes.

Both lakes had much lower levels in previous weeks, while Anderson Lake near Port Hadlock remained heavily infested with algae.

“They said it looked bad,” Harrington said of county Public Health staffers who took water samples of Lake Leland early last week.

“And Gibbs went way, way up.”

Both lakes were posted Friday afternoon with red “warning” status signs, which means that the lakes have high levels of potentially toxic blue-green algae — more than 100,000 cells per milliliter of water.

Leland had 630,000 cells per milliliter of water, while the Gibbs samples contained 120,000 cells per milliliter sampled, Harrington said.

Samples from both Leland and Gibbs showed about 30,000 cells per milliliter the week before — low enough to permit the county recommendation that recreation was OK, with some restrictions.

Anderson Lake last week tested at 200 million cells per millileter, which Harrington called “crazy.”

Officials at Anderson Lake State Park and Jefferson County Public Health officials have kept the lake closed to recreation since late April.

Other non-lake orientated recreation such as hiking, horseback riding and biking continue to be allowed at the park.

A red warning sign means that a lake is closed to recreational use, including fishing and swimming.

No one should drink the water. Boiling it or treating it will not destroy the toxin.

Small children and people with liver problems, such as chronic hepatitis, are most at risk.

‘Caution’ sign

A posted “caution” sign means a lake has moderate levels of potentially-toxic blue-green algae species, between 30,000 and 100,000 cells per milliliter of water.

Recreational use is OK, so long as fish are cleaned with organs and skin disgarded, small children and pets are kept out of the water and no one drinks the water.

“This is an unfortunate way to end the summer, but regionally, blooms of toxic blue-green algae are not uncommon, even in the fall,” Harrington said, if the water stays warm and the sun still shines.

“These algae have the potential to produce liver toxins and neurotoxins.”

Blooms in Gibbs and Leland carry blue-green algae of the genera anabaena, aphanizomenon and microcystis, he said.

Anderson Lake continues to have a bloom made up predominately of blue green algae of genera microcystis and lyngbya, which can also produce liver or neuro-toxins.

Since 2006, Jefferson County Public Health has been collecting and submitting water quality and algae samples from Leland, Anderson, Sandy Shore and Gibbs lakes to determine what species of algae are present and at what concentration.

Anderson Lake first was closed for several months in May 2006, after two dogs died from drinking water from the lake.

Jefferson County Public Health maintains an updated database of lake monitoring information at

The department can be reached at 360-385-9400.

Lake samples are not tested in Clallam County, where health officers visually monitor lakes for signs of algae bloom.

No cautions or warnings have been issued in Clallam County.

Algae blooms in Clallam County lakes should be reported to Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services environmental health division at 360-417-2258.


Port Townsend-Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

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