Tate said weather-related conditions that contribute to large-scale hazardous algae blooms include:
• Spring storms causing significant runoff into lakes;
• Long periods of hot, dry summer weather with little wind;
• Minimal water releases from the lake;
• Accumulation of pollutants in the water, primarily excess nitrogen and phosphorus commonly found in farm and lawn fertilizers.
Blue-green algae are actually various types of cyanobacteria. Algae is natural to Kansas lakes, but under certain conditions, algae blooms can form and become health hazards.
Skin contact can cause allergic reactions and ingesting the infected water can cause diarrhea, vomiting and worse. Pets and livestock can die from drinking too much infected water.
Last year, blue-green algae outbreaks in public lakes killed at least five dogs and sickened at least 13 people. KDHE issued warnings at 16 lakes—three lasting most of the summer—and advisories at four more.
2011 was the second year KDHE issued advisories and warnings for harmful algae blooms.
Advisories mean that activities such as boating and fishing may be safe, but direct water contact should be avoided by humans and entirely by pets or livestock.
Warnings mean that all water activity should be avoided, except boating where water is unlikely to splash on passengers.
Langer said the nature of these algae blooms varies from lake to lake.
“Each one is its own unique event, and because of that we know that we cannot say on Day 1 this will happen, and on Day 10 this will occur and on Day 15 we’ll see something else,” he said.
“These things have virtually a life of their own, and that’s what requires some of the constant monitoring that is performed by the agencies that respond to (hazardous algae blooms).”