Briggs Lake deemed public health risk

By OJ Stapleton -

The public is being asked to take precautions in Briggs Lake this week after the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) have issued a public health watch.

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) was identified in the lake near Russellville. The recreational public health watch area includes the entire lake.

Water ingested during recreational activities in this lake may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Skin, eye and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties may also occur after contact.

On Oct. 24, the Division of Water collected a water sample on Briggs Lake. A HAB recreational public health watch was issued because of the risk for elevated levels of microcystin toxins in the lake.

A Recreational Public Health Watch means algal toxins are present at levels that may affect sensitive populations. Swimming and wading are not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, those with certain medical conditions, and pets.

Blue-green algae occur naturally in the environment and are a vital part of the ecosystem. Harmful algal blooms arise when there are excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures and low-flow or low-water conditions. The more typical green algae, which do not produce toxins, come in many forms and may appear as underwater moss or stringy mats.

Harmful algal blooms, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies or bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown.

The following guidelines are recommended to avoid exposure to HABs:

· Individuals should avoid direct contact with affected water that has unusual color or where blue-green bacteria have been identified, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving and water skiing.

· People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with HABs. Children may be particularly sensitive.

· If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your health care provider.

· If fishing in affected waters, fish fillets (not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, non-lake water.

· Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with water where HABs are apparent.

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.

By OJ Stapleton

To contact OJ Stapleton, email or call 270-726-8394.

To contact OJ Stapleton, email or call 270-726-8394.

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