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Rice Lake algae testing shows toxins below harmful levels

No advisory at this time

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Algae drifts against a Rice Lake shoreline in this June 30 photograph. Testing has shown toxins contained in the algae are below “advisory” standards as established by the North Dakota Department of Health.

RICE LAKE – This body of water has passed the test. So far, so good.

The North Dakota Department of Health was alerted to a high presence of algae in Rice Lake on July 1. Testing, primarily for the known deadly blue-green strain of cyanobacteria, showed levels of toxins in Rice Lake water remain below “advisory” levels.

“We had a staff member go up there and get a sample after that initial report,” said Aaron Larsen, Division of Water Quality. “I think last year was one of the first years for reports of blue-green algae at Rice Lake.”

Rice Lake, southwest of Minot, made the list of harmful algal bloom waters, or HABs, in the state a year ago. It is not on the current list of 15 state lakes for which the Department of Health has issued advisories. An advisory means the water may contain blue-green algae that can be harmful to humans and pets. In those bodies of water the DOH advises people to avoid contact with the water, even avoid areas containing algae scum when boating.

Among the lakes of concern identified by the DOH are two Pierce County lakes, Antelope and Buffalo, and Coal Mine Lake in Sheridan County. The outbreaks of blue-green algae, said Larsen, are occurring earlier than usual this summer.

“With extremely hot and dry weather we were kind of expecting early calls, and that’s the way it has shaped up,” stated Larsen. “We have a lot of nutrient-rich water bodies and, with extreme dry patches out there, the blue-green is occurring earlier than normal.”

The DOH says fish from lakes of concern are safe to eat but advises people to rinse their hands thoroughly with non-lake water after landing fish and to wash fish thoroughly with tap water before cleaning them. Also, says the DOH, a person should contact their health provider or veterinarian if “you or your pet becomes ill after swimming.”

Larsen says anyone sighting blue-green algae, which often appears as spilled green or blue paint, should contact the DOH Department of Environmental Quality at 328-5210. A list of lakes affected by harmful algae can be found on the NDDEQ’s Harmful Algal Bloom webpage.

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