Stay out of Utah Lake, health officials warn, as algal danger spreads

FILE - Health officials are warning visitors to keep themselves, their pets and other animals out of Utah Lake after detecting a potentially toxic blue-green algal blooms across the lake, as seen in this June12 file photo. Researchers and officials across the country say increasingly frequent toxic algae blooms are another bi-product of global warming. They point to looming questions about their effects on human health.(Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Utah Lake has become one big, toxic bowl of cyanobacteria soup.

Health officials are warning the public to stay out of the entire lake, due to high levels of blue-green algae at all testing locations, particularly around marinas at Sandy and Lincoln beaches and Saratoga Springs. That goes for dogs, too, which have been known to die after ingesting water from the lake during past algal outbreaks.

In fact, algal blooms have become a chronic problem at Utah Lake. One in 2016 shut down the entire lake.

Blue-green algae, which are prone to explode in nutrient-laden waters during rising temperatures, releases toxic waste products that trigger diarrhea, vomiting and headaches in those exposed to them. The blooms coat the surface with an olive-green slick and leave fish floating belly up along the shores.

“Water sample results throughout the lake have cell concentrations significantly over the recommended warning threshold level,” the Utah County Health Department said Wednesday in a news release. “Those recreating on Utah Lake should take caution and avoid areas of scum. Recreationists are advised to be mindful of conditions, as they may change over the course of the day.”

This summer, three other lakes are also loaded with concerning levels of toxic algae.

In recent weeks, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality has issued algal bloom warnings for Scofield and Matt Warner reservoirs, near Scofield and Vernal, respectively, after testing showed elevated levels of algal-related toxins.

The agency is also investigating reports of a harmful bloom at Montes Creek Reservoir, a popular fishing destination northeast of Roosevelt where cyanobacteria levels appear to exceed health thresholds.