neers office at Marion Reservoir said Monday they won’t know until Thursday afternoon whether the toxity level of its harmful blue-green algae bloom will decrease enough to allow them to open the lake waters to recreation.
On Friday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, closed all recreational and camping sites within 100 feet of the water, due to a harmful algal bloom.
Kevin McCoy, assistant lake manager with the Corps of Engineers, said people in the area have become familiar with blue-green algae blooms at the lake in recent years, but this one was unusually toxic.
“It is definitely much higher than what we normally get in the form of watches and warnings,” McCoy said. “We don’t easily close the lake. It has to be a significant concern for KDHE and the Army Corps to go to that level.”
Although the toxity was higher than previous blooms, the visual evidence of a bloom was not.
“A lot of (blooms) manifested themselves physically to where you could notice it a lot more than this particular bloom,” McCoy said. “But it was just the toxicity level of this bloom that was different than some that might look uglier than this one potentially did.”
Closure precautions included posting signage at all water recreation areas, and gating off access to some camping areas. Patrons who came to camp were instructed to be at least 100 feet from the shoreline.
“To be truthful, I was very appreciative of the cooperation we got from the public at large,” McCoy said. “Even thought it’s a stressful situation, and nobody really wants to move their camps once they set up, we had almost 100 percent cooperation.
“Most people were asking questions more than they were being reluctant to relocate or leave the lake if they so chose,” he added. “It was a huge asset for the Corps of Engineers to have people cooperate in such a manner.”
KDHE first received complaints of a potential harmful algal bloom at Marion Reservoir on Tuesday, May 30. Water sampling at the reservoir indicated high levels of blue-green algae, leading to the closure order.
Kansans should be aware blooms are unpredictable, according to KDHE. They can develop rapidly and may float around the lake. If there is scum, a paint-like surface or the water is bright green, these are indications that a harmful bloom may be present.
Pet owners should be aware that animals that swim in, or drink, water affected by a harmful algal bloom, or eat dried algae along the shore may become seriously ill or die.
“As soon as we get the change in the concern levels from KDHE, we’ll be opening sites that are currently closed as fast as we can to allow for recreation to continue within the confines of whatever KDHE recommends,” McCoy said.