The Louisiana Department of Health issued an advisory Friday for a potentially large algal bloom developing in Lake Pontchartrain.
The department is advising people to avoid contact, including swimming, with blue-green algae as exposure can be harmful for some people.
An algal bloom is the rapid growth of algae on the surface of the water. Health department officials say the algae is blue, bright green, brown or red. It can smell like rotting plants.
“The algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. People who are very sensitive to smells can have respiratory irritation. Sometimes, high exposures of toxins associated with the algae can affect the liver and nervous system,” health department officials said.
Anyone exposed should wash with soap and water. Anyone feeling sick should see a doctor immediately.
“While algae toxins have not been found in the edible parts of fish, LDH advises that fish not be harvested or eaten from the lake during the bloom. Pets should not be allowed to swim in or drink from water suspected of experiencing an algal bloom,” department officials said.
In response to this advisory, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation issued this statement:
“The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation monitors the water quality of the lake weekly, and may also perform additional sampling and survey by boat/aerial observations. At this time, LPBF has been unable to confirm the presence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the lake or surrounding waterways. Since this year’s openings of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, LPBF has been on high alert for potentially harmful blooms and will continue to monitor and advise the public so necessary precautions can be taken.
“To view LPBF’s weekly data report, visit saveourlake.org. Anyone who observes algae blooms should take photographs and report the observation with geo-location through bloomWatch, an app-based reporting tool for the collection of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) information. Uploaded information is linked to a database monitored by various stakeholders across the U.S., and provides them with information to make a targeted response.
“Anyone with questions about today’s advisory from the Louisiana Department of Health’s should contact their office at 225-342-9500.”