SPANISH FORK — State and local health agencies on Friday ordered the closure of the Lincoln Beach and Lincoln Marina on Utah Lake after sampling revealed toxin cell concentrations 14 times higher than previous samples.
The recreational danger threshold for microcystin, a potent liver toxin, is 10 million cells per milliliter. Samples from the now closed areas lab-tested at 36 million cells per milliliter. On June 20, that number was 2.5 million cells per milliliter.
“Water with these levels of concentration in the algal bloom pose serious health risks,” says Eric Edwards, deputy director of the Utah County Health Department. “To protect the health of people and animals that use the lake, it is necessary for this portion of the lake to remain closed until it is safe for recreation.”
Provo Bay, the water at the day use area of Utah Lake State Park in Provo and Sandy Beach in Spanish Fork remain under a health advisory because of the presence of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality's water quality scientists continue to monitor and sample at Utah Lake, the state's largest freshwater lake that suffers from an excess nutrient problem.
Proliferation of phosphorus, in particular, fuels the blooms and is a byproduct of wastewater treatment plant discharges, agricultural operations and urban runoff. It also occurs naturally, but an abundance of the nutrient leads to excess plant growth.
As the algal bloom degrades, it robs the water of oxygen for other aquatic life.
Those recreating on Utah Lake from other access points should be cautious and avoid areas of scum because the toxin is a possible human carcinogen linked to multiple adverse health effects.
Earlier this month, Rockport Reservoir experienced an onset of blue-green algae, but it has since been declared in the clear.
At Utah Lake, it is likely the bloom will continue to worsen as temperatures remain high and the area remains under a stagnant weather pattern.
Researchers with state and federal agencies, as well as universities, are conducting multipronged studies to arrive at ways to counter the bloom problem.
Blooms around the world are nothing new, with severe infestations along the Ohio River and in the Yellow Sea off the cost of China.
More information on harmful algal blooms is available at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's website.
For concerns about possible exposure, call the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or your local doctor.