Algal blooms at Nolin River Lake prompt recreation advisory

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is cautioning recreational users of Nolin River Lake, located in Edmonson, Grayson and Hart counties, about potentially harmful contact with a bloom of blue-green algae, which has been detected in the lake water. The algal bloom is capable of producing toxins that can be harmful to small children, those who are ill and animals.

Blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, falls into the category of harmful algal blooms (HABs). The algae have previously been identified in Kentucky at Taylorsville Lake, Barren River Lake and Rough River 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.

This summer represents the first time that USACE has tested its Kentucky lakes for HABs, though it is reasonable to speculate that HABs have occurred in previous years during the summer seasons.

Factors promoting algal growth include a combination of sunlight, warm water temperatures, low turbulence and elevated nutrient levels, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, occurring in the water. The emerging harmful algal blooms in lakes are likely the result of heavy spring rains that wash excess nutrients into the lakes and recent high temperatures that allow for abundant algae growth.

While all four of the affected 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.

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

Nolin River Lake provides water to local water/utility companies. The utility companies, Edmonson County Water District and Hardin County Water District No. 2, have been notified of the algal blooms and have confirmed that they have the appropriate treatment and processes in place.  For specific inquiries about your drinking water quality, contact your utility office.

Edmonson County Water District
Phone: 270-597-2165
Email: mail@ecwdwater.com

Hardin County Water District No. 2
Phone: 270-259-4501
Email: customercare@hardincountywater2.org

Factors promoting algal growth include a combination of sunlight, warm water temperatures, low turbulence and elevated nutrient levels, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, occurring in the water. The emerging harmful algal blooms in lakes are likely the result of heavy spring rains that wash excess nutrients into the lakes and recent high temperatures that allow for abundant algae growth.

For information on harmful algal blooms and updates on the levels at USACE lakes, visit: http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterInformation/HABs.aspx

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