Toxic algae levels in Allatoona Lake are within ‘safe range’

The state Environmental Protection Division reported Wednesday that tests have confirmed a toxic algae is growing in Allatoona Lake, but the levels detected pose no threat.

Test results on water samples taken from Allatoona Lake this week show the level of toxic blue-green algae growing in the lake is within the “safe range,” according to a statement the EPD provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

However, EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said the agency suspects algae blooms “may have occurred this past weekend and that the samples were collected after the bloom began to dissipate.”

“EPD recommends that people and pets avoid going into lakes or ponds that appear bright green or the color of pea soup,” he said.

The testing was done after a Cobb County couple said their border collie had died Saturday after swimming in a cove of the lake near Red Top Mountain Road in Bartow County.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, which manages Allatoona, said in a statement Wednesday that it encourages visitors to Corps property to report any water they suspect as being potentially harmful. The Corps will alert the EPD of those suspected sightings.

READDog's death points to possible toxic algae bloom in Allatoona Lake

The lake is a water source for the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, which on Tuesday issued a public statement that the water is safe to drink. Its own tests for the toxic algae and other contaminants have come back negative.

Water Authority General Manager Glenn Page said additional testing will be done Friday. Lake water samples will be collected Friday from various areas around the lake, including the cove where the border collie was “exposed to the alleged algae bloom,” Page said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cyanobacteria, as the blue-green algae is also known, is a naturally occurring microscopic bacteria that grows in fresh bodies of water such as lakes and ponds. It uses sunlight to make its own food and can form blooms that spread across the water's surface.

Chambers added scientists continue to study algae blooms to understand why and when they occur. He said the algae blooms are “usually associated with hot weather,” but can occur anytime of the year.

The algae can be deadly to dogs who swallow it or lick it off their coats. In the past week, there have been news reports of 4 dogs who died — three in North Carolina and one in Texas — as a result of swimming in water with the bacteria. It can also cause health symptoms in humans who come into contact with it, including skin rashes, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.

The same algae is also showing up in Lake Olmstead in Augusta. You can learn more about algae blooms by visiting the EPD's website.

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