The state has issued a health alert for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), also known as toxic blue-green algae, at Wagon Train Lake in Lancaster County. This is the first alert of the 2020 recreational season.
Samples taken earlier this week at Wagon Train Lake were above the health alert threshold of 8 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin, which is a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae. This is a lower threshold than previous years, based on recommendations issued in 2019 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Previously, the state had set a limit of 20 ppb, but adopted the new limits after concluding that the new EPA threshold is based on the best scientific evidence available, and is protective of public health.
When a health alert is issued, signs are posted to advise the public to use caution, and designated swimming beaches are closed during the alert. Recreational boating and fishing are permitted, but the public should avoid full-body contact activities that could lead to swallowing the water, such as swimming, wading, skiing and jet skiing. Do not let pets get in the water or drink from the lake. People can still use the public areas for camping, picnics and other outdoor activities.
Weekly sampling has been conducted at 51 public lakes since mid-May. The lakes will continue to be monitored weekly through the end of September. Sampling results for HAB and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on NDEE’s website, dee.ne.gov. The state’s monitoring is conducted at public lakes with swimming beaches and high public activity. HAB may also be present in other lakes in Nebraska that are not tested, so the public should use caution if they see signs of algal blooms.
For more information about HABs potential effects, what to look for, and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the attached Fact Sheet. To view the weekly data for the lakes sampled and to sign up for the BeachWatch listserv, go to deq-iis.ne.gov/zs/bw/.