Blue-green algae shutting down local beaches - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Blue-green algae shutting down local beaches

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MADISON (WKOW)— A toxic bacteria is beginning to coat area lakes and create a health hazard for swimmers and boaters.

Joe Schaut spends every weekend on Lake Mendota, and says he’s noticed a big jump in blue-green algae compared to last year.

“It was so bad we went driving around the lake, looking for cleaner water and we just said screw this and came back in,” Schaut said.

The health department regularly checks area beaches and if the algae levels are too high, they close the area, like they've done at Warner Park.

“Really try to look at the signs at the beaches or the lake,” said Krisit Sorsa, who works for the Madison-Dane County Health Department. “There's some discoloration, some scum on the surface.”

Blue-green algae can also be brown or reddish-purple. It's actually a bacteria that occurs naturally but it becomes a problem when it multiplies and forms masses. That happens because of chemicals applied to lawns and fields that run off in to lakes and rivers.

“The lakes here have a lot of nutrients, phosphorous and nitrogen, so there are some efforts to lower the nutrient content in the lakes,” Sorsa said.

There actually is no way to safely treat the algae. And it can cause rashes or even damage the liver and nervous system in humans and it can be deadly for animals.

Sorsa says if you see the algae, stay away and a report it to the health department.

You can find information about area beach conditions here.

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