Photo by Kelly Phillips | NDL Fishermen enjoy Briggs Lake in March 2019.

Photo by Kelly Phillips | NDL

Fishermen enjoy Briggs Lake in March 2019.

The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) have issued a harmful algal bloom (HAB) recreational public health advisory for the Ohio River from the McAlpine Dam near Louisville to the Greenup Dam near Greenup, Ky. An advisory has also been issued for Briggs Lake near Russellville.

Briggs Lake is a reservoir located just 4.2 miles from Russellville off of Proctor Mill Road. The lake was named after the late George Briggs, who was the mayor of Russellville in the late 1930s/early 1940s. Mr. Briggs conceived the idea in 1941 and the lake was dedicated on April 15, 1949.

The lake was built as a water source for the City of Russellville but later became unnecessary as other water sources became available. The city now gets its water from the Logan Todd Regional Water Commission who draws it from the Cumberland River.

Briggs Lake has been used for recreational purposes such as fishing but has been in the news for being polluted by trash throughout the years. Various organizations continue to clean the lake area including Leadership Logan and non-profit groups.

The lake has had algae problems in the past. In 2006, the city agreed to allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct aeration to reinvigorate and revitalize the lake for the betterment of the natural habitat it creates for wildlife. That process was to increase water clarity, prevent algae growth, prevent fish kills, and generally promote aquatic life.

A HAB recreational public health advisory means algal toxins have been found at various locations along the river and within the lake. Swimming, wading, and water activities that create spray are not recommended in areas impacted by HABs. Water ingested during recreational activities in this area may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Skin, eye, and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties, skin rashes, as well as numbness or tingling of limbs may also occur after contact.

Observations and sample results from Sept. 25, 2019, indicated the presence of a toxin-producing bloom on the Ohio River near downtown Cincinnati. Toxin results from this area were well above the advisory threshold. Toxin-producing blooms that exceeded the advisory threshold were also identified on the Ohio River near Dover, Ky. (Mason County), and near Towhead Island in Louisville, Ky., and additionally at Briggs Lake in Logan County. Currently, HABs are present in patchy areas along the extent of the Ohio River under this advisory. However, bloom conditions can change rapidly.

This is a recreational advisory only. There have been no detected microcystin toxins reported in the finished, treated water from public water systems which draw from the river. Precautions are being taken to monitor river water at public water supply intakes. DOW will continue to sample and monitor the public water systems' raw water and finished, treated water while harmful algal bloom conditions continue.

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. 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, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving, and water skiing, with affected water that has a visible bloom, unusual color, or algal scum.

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

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, potable 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.

For additional information about harmful algal blooms in Kentucky, please visit the Division of Water's HAB webpage.

To see all current HAB advisories in Kentucky, please access the Division of Water's HAB Viewer at http://watermaps.ky.gov/HABs.