As toxic algae blooms become more common, the state starts monitoring program

In the past couple of years, harmful algae blooms have been identified in Wyoming’s water bodies more frequently. So the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality started a routine monitoring program.

Last year was the first year of the program. Lindsay Patterson, supervisor of Surface Water Quality Standards at the Wyoming DEQ, said the program monitored 28 water bodies identified to have an increased risk for harmful algae blooms and as well as those more heavily used for recreation. Those included Boysen, Alcova, Flaming Gorge and Buffalo Bill Reservoirs.

“That allowed us to understand which of the water bodies are producing not only blooms, but also blooms that have elevated concentrations of cyanotoxins,” said Patterson.

Last year, there were high toxic algae advisories for eight water bodies. So they will concentrate on those and continue to look at other areas that are highly trafficked for recreation. Patterson said collecting data also helps the Wyoming Department of Health identify when to issue advisories for public health information.

“But that said, we [also] use that information that we gather to help us identify water bodies, where we may need to do additional regulatory work,” she said.

That could include regulating the nutrients in the water. The blooms usually appear from mid-July through November. People exposed to the toxins may experience rashes or cold-like symptoms and may need to be hospitalized. Pets can die from exposure. Patterson said people should monitor the DEQ website to see if there is an advisory issued to the area.

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