HELENA – During the hot summer months, many flock to Montana’s lakes to cool down. Yet, according to the Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ) and the Department of Human Health Services (DPHHS), as temperatures make a staggering climb, so does the chances of harmful algal blooms, also known as: HABS.
HABS are caused by a blue-green-like algae that is indigenous to Montana’s fresh lake water and reservoirs. This toxic species predominately grows in shallow, warm-water areas where there is more sunlight for growth.
Due to increased water temperatures, in turn, nitrogen in the water as well as a high-level of phosphorus run-off (caused by varies homosapien activities), harmful to algal blooms can produce toxins that damage skin, liver and nerve cells.
Hannah Riedl, Water Quality Specialist for DEQ told MTN, “most commonly, I get reports of people experiencing a rash or itchiness on their skin; they can have diarrhea or nausea or headaches. We have received several reports of people’s dogs dying or cattle dying…so, especially with dogs and children you know, because they’ll just jump straight into the water and very easily ingest it.”
Since mid-July of 2019, the HABS report to the public has reported several blooms in the Hauser Reservoir.
Jordan Tollefson, Northwest Energy Water Quality Specialist said, “Usually, you’ll see what almost looks like grass clippings…that’s a species of blue-green algae that we typically see around this area. Like floating grass clippings that will start to form mats and as they die-off, they turn almost a turquoise color and that’s the best way to identify the blue-green algae.
Tollefson continued, “’If you do see blue-green algae which comes across almost like a blue-latex paint color, or light-green color floating on the surface they can produce toxins and so what we like to tell people is to be cautious about that…and if you do see really bad algae bloom, try to not let your children or pets swim in there.”