NO swimming in Grand Lake

The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) Board of Directors on Friday afternoon advised the public to “stay out of Grand Lake waters” as a result of the significant and growing presence of Blue Green Algae (Cyanobacteria).

“We strongly discourage any body contact with the water at this point,” said GRDA Corporate Communications Director Justin Alberty. “That means no swimming or any other activities that would bring you into contact with lake water.”

The reason behind this advisory is due to the rapidly changing conditions of the Blue Green Algae levels and areas in the lake, added Alberty.  Earlier in the week, Blue Green Algae was discovered and confirmed in several locations of Grand Lake.  

GRDA issued a “Blue Green Algae Fact Sheet” notice on the web Thursday June 30 urging the public to be aware of “possible outbreaks on Grand Lake” and to contact the GRDA Ecosystems Department or the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality if they had “suspicions” of “other” outbreaks.

After further monitoring, the GRDA release says, “it appears there is the potential for the algae to be in all the major coves and areas of the main lake.”

“Test results from late Thursday afternoon showed Blue Green Algae toxicity at higher levels than before, and this is a situation that continues to develop rapidly. We strongly discourage anyone from getting into the lake at this point.”

Blue Green Algae are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in lakes and streams, usually in low numbers.  However, the algae can become abundant in shallow, warm water that receives heavy sunlight.  While most Blue Green Algae are not toxic, toxins can be produced in some algae blooms.  That is what has occurred on Grand Lake and continues to develop.

“Both the GRDA Ecosystems Department and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have monitored this issue for several days, and its safe to say that it has rapidly progressed, even in the last 24 hours,” said Alberty.

BGA can cause skin irritations and damage to the liver and central nervous system.  According to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Blue Green Algae is thick like pea soup. It often looks like paint or thick green pea soup on the water.  On shore, it can form a thick mat on the beach.  It’s typically found in shallow, stagnant, warm water that gets a lot of sunlight.

Contact with Blue Green Algae can be harmful. The toxins produced by Blue Green Algae may cause a variety of reactions, most commonly, upper respiratory problems, eye irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.  The DEQ suggests you avoid any swimming, water skiing, boating – and that a physician be called if you or someone you know comes in contact with the algae.

Because children typically weigh less than adults, they are vulnerable to smaller quantities of the toxins which can trigger a more severe effect.

If animals consume or inhale Blue Green Algae it can lead to severe illness and even death.  Contact your veterinarian or emergency animal clinic if your pet has been exposed.

For more click here for the Wikipedia summary of Cyanobacteria.

Gov. Mary Fallin encouraged Oklahomans planning on going to Grand Lake over the Independence Day holiday weekend to not cancel their plans.

Fallin said her family planned a trip to Grand Lake for this weekend and is still going.  She says there’s a lot to do around Grand Lake even if the lake water is off-limits.

Grand Lake is a significant recreational area with public pools and golf courses, fireworks shows, an air show, free concerts and numerous tourist attractions with special events this holiday weekend Fallin said.  She says she’s concerned about the economic impact of the water issue for hundreds of small businesses.