Algal blooms at Barren River Lake prompt recreation advisory

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is cautioning recreational users of Barren River Lake, located in Allen, Barren and Munroe counties in south-central Kentucky, about potentially harmful contact with a bloom of blue-green algae that has been detected in the lake water. The algal bloom is capable of producing toxins that can be harmful to small children, those with illness and animals.

Blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria, which fall into the category of harmful algal blooms (HABs), were also recently found to be growing in Taylorsville Lake and Rough River Lake at levels that prompted a similar advisory. The more typical green algae, which is not harmful to humans or animals, come in many forms and may look like underwater moss, stringy mats or floating scum. Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, looks like slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies of bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear as red or brown.

While all three lakes remain open to recreational use, such as boating and swimming, visitors are encouraged to be aware of the possibility of adverse health impacts associated with contact with the water. Precautionary measures include the following:

  • Avoid contact with visible algae and do not swallow water while swimming.
  • Take a bath or shower with warm, soapy water after coming in contact with water in ponds and lakes, especially before preparing or consuming food.
  • Prevent pets and livestock from entering the water or drinking untreated water from      these sources. Livestock, pets and wild animals can be poisoned by the toxins produced by some algal blooms. Small animals can ingest a toxic dose quickly. Dogs are particularly susceptible to blue-green algae poisoning because the scum can attach to their coats and be swallowed during self-cleaning.
  • Remove fish skin and organs before cooking and do not consume or allow pets/animals to consume the organs or skin.

According to World Health Organization guidelines, the algal cell counts are at the cautionary level and present a higher risk of causing health concerns for all people and animals that come in contact with the water. Symptoms of HAB exposure may include gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; skin and eye irritation, and/or throat irritation or breathing difficulties.

If you are concerned that you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to HABs, please see your doctor and call your local health department. The USACE is working with the Kentucky Division of Water, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Parks to:

  • Continue water quality monitoring and provide results to the public
  • Monitor any potential blooms on site at the lake
  • Post advisories at the lake in conspicuous places – either “advisory” (potential health affects) or “caution” (more significant risk of health impacts of HAB)
  • Keep boaters, swimmers and those who recreate at the lake informed of the possible risk

Barren River Lake provides water to local water/utility companies. The utility companies of Grayson County and Leitchfield have been notified of the algal blooms.  For specific inquiries about your drinking water quality, contact your utility office.

Bowling Green Municipal Utilities:  270-782-1200
Warren County Water District:  270-842-0052
Glasgow Water Company:  270-651-3727
Scottsville Water Department:  270-237-4402
Allen County Water District:  270-622-3040

Factors promoting algal growth include sunlight, warm weather, low turbulence and nutrient sources such as phosphorus and nitrogen. For information on harmful algal blooms and updates on the levels at USACE lakes, visit:

For current information on conditions at Barren River Lake, visit the USACE Barren River Lake Facebook page at