PERU – State health officials have upgraded the blue-green algae alert level at Mississinewa Lake’s beach, which now has the highest warning level of any lake under the control of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The alert level on Friday jumped from the advisory to the caution level after testing found an increase in the algae.
Swimming and boating are still permitted at the lake, but children and those with compromised immune systems should not swim. Lake officials say to avoid direct contact with algae, and no one should drink the water.
Anyone who comes in contact with lake water should take a bath or shower with warm soapy water.
Lake officials say, although the test results are specifically for the beach where pets are not permitted to swim, people should also keep pets out of the water along shallow banks and the shoreline.
“It is difficult to prevent them from drinking the water or licking their fur after swimming, and their internal organs may be affected more quickly,” state health officials said on the lake’s website.
Six other Indiana lakes currently are under a blue-green algae advisory. Mississinewa Lake is the only one under the caution alert. The next level would lead to the closing of the beach due to algae and toxin levels, making it unsafe for swimming.
Mississinewa was tested most recently on Monday. Results should be released in a few days.
DNR officials said testing for blue-green algae was set to end after this week, but because of the caution alert at the lake, testing will happen every week until algae levels drop.
Algae commonly are found in Indiana lakes and streams without concern, but the concentrated presence of blue-green algae can be linked to some adverse health effects, including rashes, skin or eye irritation, nausea, stomach aches and tingling in fingers and toes.
Blue-green algae are a group of bacteria that can multiply quickly when environmental conditions are just right. The nutrients that cause an algae “bloom” come from excess or misapplied lawn and agricultural fertilizers, runoff from pastures, feedlots, lawns and golf courses, discharges from residential sewage treatment systems and many other sources of organic nutrients.
Other factors that aid in the growth of algae include sunlight, warm weather and low turbulence. Algal blooms are most common from May to October but may occur at all times of the year.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says several agencies are working together to better understand blue-green algae blooms in Indiana’s lakes. Agencies include IDEM, Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.