Washington state lake harmful algae blooms a risk in summer | Bellingham Herald


For those coming into increasing contact with Washington State’s lakes as they warm up throughout the summer, being aware of harmful algae blooms could save the life of their pet and prevent exposure to themselves.

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, typically grows in lakes, rivers, ponds, estuaries and marine water, according to the Washington State Department of Health, but not all blooms are toxic. Blooms tend to be found on shorelines.

“There have been increases in the number of cyanobacteria blooms and duration, in general. A cool, wet spring should hopefully help this year, but we will see how it goes. After the heat wave last weekend, the number of lakes blooming went up from about four to 16,” Lizbeth Seebacher, Washington Department of Ecology Wetland & Aquatic Ecologist wrote in an email to

The Bellingham Herald. Harmful algae blooms produce toxins that can poison humans, pets and wildlife, according to the Washington State Lake Protection Association.

They commonly begin to occur near the start of summer and continue until the autumn. For the most recent toxicity information, the Washington State Toxic Algae website worked with the Washington Department of Ecology to create a live, interactive map of lakes that have been tested for toxic algae and their safety levels.

If your pet comes into contact with the toxic algae, the effects could be severe or even fatal, and drinking water that is contaminated has been known to kill pets.

When visiting a lake or other body of water, be on the lookout for any yellow or red warning signs that will inform visitors of toxic algae and closures as well as algae blooms. Blue-green algae typically look like green paint floating on top of the water, but its color can also look blue, brown or reddish-green. Algae can also look like colored scum, foam or streaks along the surface of the water.

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