Ellendale lake closed to clean up sewage spill

Published 7:24 am Sunday, August 14, 2016

ELLENDALE — The beach and boat access at Beaver Lake, near Ellendale, reopened Friday despite elevated levels of algal toxins found in samples taken in the lake’s northwest bay.

Beaver Lake had been closed since Aug. 6 because of what was originally thought of as a sewage spill, but was later found to be a severe algal bloom.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the samples taken Thursday were from where the worst of the bloom occurred and where scum was still visible on the water Thursday.

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“The agency found no detectable levels of toxins at the beach or boat launch area,” the agency stated in a news release.

No indicators of human wastewater or manure were found, the release stated.

The MPCA advised people or pets to rinse and wash off if they come in contact with the water and seek medical or veterinary attention immediately.

The MPCA also advised people to stay out of the lake if they have any doubt about water quality.

“People and animals should avoid contact with areas of the lake where visible scum persists,” the release stated. “These toxins can sicken people and sicken or kill pets that swallow algal material.”

The decision on whether to enter the lake is a personal decision that must be made by each individual, said Chris Gannon, Steele County deputy emergency management director.

The water samples were taken before it rained in the area Thursday, meaning that the condition of the water has likely changed since sampling, the release stated. Heavy rains earlier this week reportedly dispersed much of the bloom.

The bloom was unusual because the 98-acre Beaver Lake is known for its high water quality, according to the MPCA.

“The MPCA does not routinely conduct algal toxin testing on water in Minnesota, but tested Beaver Lake as part of the response to a suspected spill,” the release stated. “With 12,000 lakes and 100,000 miles of streams, the agency does not have the resources for this extent of monitoring. Also, lake conditions can change between the time of sampling and completion of lab results. The agency works with the Minnesota Department of Health and local partners to educate citizens about harmful algal blooms and how to take precautions.”

The are currently no short-term solutions to fix a blue-green algal bloom. Once a bloom occurs, the only option is to wait for the weather to change — such as significant rainfall, wind shifts or cooler temps — to disrupt the algae’s growth.

According to a news release, an MPCA statement on the possible harmful toxins will be posted in different locations.

The decision was reached after consultation between Steele County Parks and Recreation Department and other county officials.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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