Fears Of Fatal Algal Bloom In Central Texas Are Growing

By Sherah Janay Ndjongo

September 13, 2023

Blooming water. Algae bloom due to pollution. Water pollution protection concept
Photo: Getty Images

As summer waltzes toward its farewell, locals might be itching for one last aquatic adventure with furry friends. However, before diving in, there's one burning question still lingering on Central Texans' minds. Is it safe to swim in lakes such as Belton Lake with the presence of algal blooms?

Those pesky algae can lurk around like party crashers, and there are good reasons for the concerns they raise from those who worry about coming across them.

Luckily, there are no confirmed algae blooms in Central Texas, but that doesn't mean letting one's guard down just yet when splashing about.

Arty Johnson, the Natural Resource Specialist and Park Ranger for Belton Lake confirmed that conditions haven't been right for algae to bloom, "It really has to do also with nitrogen and phosphorus that's in the water."

Additionally, Pat Glibert, Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and phytoplankton ecologist concentrating on the effects of nutrients and algal blooms, said that the most common species in freshwater is microcystis, which is capable of producing the toxin microcystin. Therefore, blooms can be fatal if they are ingested.

So, swimmers, beware! At the least, microcystin can leave a skin rash, but if one keeps accidentally sipping lake water like it's lemonade, it might even lead to liver cancer down the road.

For those with pets, Fido might not be the best judge of what's safe to slurp. Dogs need to be kept on a tight leash within six feet of their parents in algae-infested waters.

Johnson advised, "Algae comes and goes, it could be nothing, there today and a few days later be gone or vice versa. If it doesn't look normal, don't go in, whether it's brown, whether it's green, or blue, whatever color. Trust your instincts."

If potential blooms on Belton Lake are spotted, contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at 254-742-3050.

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