Avoid swimming at Washoe Lake State Park south of Reno until further notice – toxic algae has been spotted there.
Scientists sampling surface waters there have identified a potential harmful algal bloom along the shore, the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reported Thursday.
Exposure to toxic algae can make you sick. Children are especially at risk, and it can kill pets, livestock and wildlife.
The lake will remain open for motorized boating as well as paddling.
Toxic algal blooms are not actually algae, according to a department brochure. They’re made of billions of tiny organisms called cyanobacteria that release toxins when they die.
Algal blooms can last for days or weeks and toxins can last for days after the bloom. They’re most common in the summer when the water is warm and stagnant.
A harmful algal bloom may be present if:
- The water smells rotten.
- Large mats or scums are floating on the surface.
- The water looks like green paint.
- There are bright colors like blue, green, white, brown or red.
The Conservation and Natural Resources department recommends that you should avoid wading, swimming, jet-skiing or water skiing in water containing possible algal blooms.
- Human symptoms: Diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, muscle cramps, hives/rashes, trouble breathing, and skin, eye or throat irritation.
- Animal symptoms: Weakness, fatigue, excessive salivation or drooling, staggering, difficulty breathing, vomiting, convulsions and death.
Keep children and pets away from the water. Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with the affected water.
If you come in contact with the water or the algal scum, wash the area thoroughly with clean water from a safe source.
Fish can collect algal toxins in their bodies, but fish in Nevada likely have lower levels because blooms are irregular, a department news release said.
If you decide to eat a fish you catch during a bloom, wash it carefully with clean water and only eat the fillets. Throw skin and internal organs in the trash; they may have higher levels of algal toxins.
To report a suspected harmful algal bloom in Nevada, call the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection at 888-331-6337.