Toxin in Lake Leland prompts warning sign

PORT TOWNSEND — A warning sign has been placed at Lake Leland because of a high toxin level found in a water sample last week.

The Jefferson County Public Health announced Friday that results of a test of a sample collected Monday revealed that the level of microcystin, a toxin created by blue-green algae, was 17 micrograms per liter, which is above the state recreational threshold of 6 micrograms.

Visitors to the lake north of Quilcene are warned against drinking the water or allowing animals to drink it, swimming or water skiing or allowing pets to swim in the lake. They are also told to clean fish well and discard the guts and to avoid areas of scum when boating.

Microcystin, a liver toxin, can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting in humans and death in animals, according to a Jefferson County Public Health Department press release.

Effects of microcystin poisoning can take hours or days to appear, the press release said.

People are advised to eat no more than two eight ounce servings of fish fillet meals per week from lakes with microcystin.

Algae blooms are not uncommon this time of year, said Stuart Whitford, director of Jefferson County Environmental Public Health.

“It’s not unusual to see blooms all year round and other lakes seasonally, especially in the summer and early fall,” Whitford said.

Three East Jefferson County lakes have current limitations due to algae blooms.

Anderson Lake is currently closed to all activity. State rangers closed the lake in May after the amount of deadly nerve toxin anatoxin-a was found to be far over the approved threshold. Signage, which stated that all were to stay out of the lake, was updated with more specifics after a dog fell into it and died on Mother’s Day.

As has been true since the nearly annual closures of the lake because of toxic algae over the past decade, the rest of the 410-acre Anderson Lake State Park between Port Townsend and Chimacum remains open to hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and other recreation when the lake is closed.

Gibbs Lake, which is south of Port Townsend, is open, but a caution sign is posted. A bloom of algae is visible. Visitors are warned not to drink the water, not to swim in areas of scum, keep pets and livestock away from the lake, and clean fish well, discarding the guts.

The rest of Gibbs Lake County Park is open without restriction for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Crocker Lake north of Lake Leland also was sampled. It was found to be clear of toxins.

Blue-green algae is a natural occurrence and is usually benign. At times, especially during warm weather, it can begin to produce toxins. Researchers still don’t know why.

The county public health department has monitored area lakes for blue-green algae seasonally since 2007. Monthly monitoring begins in April each year.

More information about algae bloom warnings and an up-to-date map of the status of each lake within Jefferson County can be found at https://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/723/Lake-Status.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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