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Officials say no cyanotoxins found in drinking water; local beaches posted with warning signs

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – After a summer of good water quality, cyanobacteria blooms were observed in multiple locations around Clear Lake starting in September.

Recent complaints about taste and odor of drinking water raised customer concerns about safety.

To be certain that Lake County citizens are being supplied with safe drinking water, local community water companies, in cooperation with California’s Drinking Water Program and with help from the Elem and Big Valley environmental directors, conducted voluntary testing on Sept. 15 of raw and finished water.

Finished water is what is delivered to customers’ homes.

The water was tested for microcystins, the most common cyanotoxin of concern to drinking water systems. Testing for cyanotoxins is not currently required by regulations.

According to Lake County Health Officer, Dr. Karen Tait, “The results are reassuring.”

All four locations that were tested – City of Lakeport, Highlands Water Co., Clearlake Oaks Water Co. and Konocti County Water District – measured “nondetectable” for microcystins in finished water.

Water tested around the shorelines of Austin Park, Sulfur Bank Mine Beach and in Clearlake Oaks all showed levels of microcystins well above levels considered safe for direct contact recreational activities.   

As a result, “Warning” signs will be posted in those areas to caution the public to stay out of the water and to not allow pets to swim in those areas or come into contact with mats and algal scum that accumulates on the shore.

The cyanotoxins levels appear highest in areas where the water has visible surface scum, foam and mats.

“Even though we are very concerned about the health risks of coming into contact with the high microcystin levels in the recreational locations identified, it appears that those dangerous levels quickly drop off further away from the shore,” Tait said.

Testing along the shoreline in Lucerne revealed much lower levels of microcystin. Therefore, there will be no additional warning signs posted in that area.

A multiagency task force to review current data related to the cyanobacterial blooms was convened this week by the Elem Colony and Big Valley Rancheria environmental health directors. Participation included multiple county and state departments and agencies.

The goal of the group is to coordinate approaches, share information, and develop written plans for the future. 

“We are fortunate to have such active participation of so many agencies, particularly the state Drinking Water program and local tribes. Although this has been a difficult year for us, we are benefiting from increased collaboration of so many agencies and departments,” said Dr. Tait.  “We expect that conditions should improve with wetter and cooler weather.”

A variety of local businesses in Lake County are distributing informational postcards about cyanobacteria, entitled “Living with a Natural Lake.”

Do’s and don’ts to stay safe and healthy around cyanobacteria blooms are included in the postcard. It also provides information on how to distinguish cyanobacteria blooms from the harmless aquatic plants that grow on Clear Lake.

More information about cyanobacteria can be found at http://www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/Environmental_Health/Blue-Green_Algae.htm and http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/water/pages/bluegreenalgae.aspx .

 

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