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DEQ says to keep an eye out for toxic algae blooms in waters across Wyoming

A body of water with blue-green algae blooms.
Toxic algae blooms in Alcova Reservoir.

Grass clippings, blue-green scum and spilled paint. These are all what toxic algae blooms or harmful cyanobacteria blooms (HCBs) can look like on water.

It is the time of year when toxic algae blooms can become a problem – both in standing and running water. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently issued a notice on what to look for and how to stay safe.

“They tend to accumulate along the shoreline at recreation areas, and different water bodies and stagnant water,” said Kelsee Hurshmann, DEQ’s natural resource analyst. “They can also be attached. So they can either be floating or attached to different material in the water including rocks, sediment and plants.”

Hurshmann said they are actually naturally occurring and even non-toxic at low levels.

“But with warm temperatures and extra excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs in a water system, they form that harmful cyanobacteria bloom,” she said.

The toxic blooms are dangerous to both humans and animals, causing everything from rashes to numbness to even death. Past toxin advisories have been issued in bodies of water across the state, including Alcova Reservoir, Diamond Lake and Saratoga Lake.

“So the public and recreators should go to that web map and look at water bodies with past advisories to figure out where they may see blooms this coming season,” Hurshmann said.

So far this year there are no current advisories. The peak of the season lasts from July and into October.

Hurshmann helps coordinate the team studying the blooms in Wyoming, which they have been doing since 2017. However, the routine monitoring program began back in 2021, where they check 25 water bodies monthly for HCBs.

But, as the weather gets warmer, keep an eye out for toxin advisories. The Environmental Protection Agency sites research showing that toxic blooms are becoming more common in the U.S. because of climate change.

You can find more information about the blooms and where they have been on DEQ’s website. Also, if you see a bloom report it to the DEQ and the Wyoming Department of Health.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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