Toxic algae on the rise in Iowa, spotted in North Liberty - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Toxic algae on the rise in Iowa, spotted in North Liberty

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A form of algae is on the rise in Iowa and, when toxic, it can run the risk of being fatal for dogs - and even humans.

For nine weeks in 2010, advisories were put out, warning of blue-green algae detections in state park beaches. In 2016, there were 37 weeks of advisories, according to Iowa Environmental Council Water Program Director, Susan Heathcote, who said the number will continue to rise.

Blue-green algae is also known as "toxic algae" because it has more risks than typical algae. When blue-green algae releases microcystins, a toxin, it can cause rashes and flu-like symptoms upon exposure to it.  According to Heathcote, when ingested, it can be fatal.

"If you have any fear that that's happened, you need to get your child or pet to the doctor or vet right away because this can happen very quickly.  Within hours, your liver can be affected and it can be fatal," she said.

The algae isn't always toxic, but the Iowa Department of Public Health says to take precaution and stay out. 

Heathcote said testing is done weekly at the 39 state park beaches where water recreation is common. Recently, the bacteria was found in Beaver Kreek in North Liberty. A warning was issued to residents, and a sign was put up near the creek, which sits right next to a park.  In the issued warning, it said that North Liberty ponds and lakes are not monitored because they're not rated for recreation.

Blue-green algae forms during high temperatures, a high presence of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from grass clippings and fertilizers, and in shallow or slow-moving water, according to Heathcote.

Leah Knight lives near the North Liberty park and walks her dog there often. She said on Thursday she noticed the water was green and stopped her dog from drinking from it like he has in the past.

"It can be muddy and gross, but it's never been green," said Knight.

Knight said since the sign has been put up she's noticed that many aren't paying attention to the warning.

"I've seen kids in the water with their swimsuits on, and they can do it when it's not green and this was even when the sign was up," Knight said.

The detected blue-green algae in North Liberty doesn't have an affect on drinking water.

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