State officials are warning people to stay away from potentially toxic algae that’s growing in Fontana Lake, a scenic boating and fishing spot in North Carolina’s mountains.
The algal bloom has been observed near the Bryson City 288 boat ramp and Fontana Lake Dam but might also be in other areas, the Division of Water Resources said Tuesday. The 17-mile lake lies south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The blue-green algae has been identified as species that can produce toxins capable of affecting the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and nervous system of people, pets and livestock.
Children are especially vulnerable because of their small size. So are dogs, which have died after lapping up water near blooms or eating the algae.
The division said no health problems associated with the Fontana bloom have been reported.
Algal blooms are common in warm weather in slow-moving or stagnant water. In some phases, the fast-growing blooms can strip oxygen out of water and kill fish.
The Fontana bloom was first reported last week in the Tuckaseegee arm of the lake. The water resources division says it has also monitored a blue-green algae bloom on the coast, in the Chowan River near Edenton, for several weeks.
State health officials say it’s still safe to boat or fish in Fontana Lake, but the public should avoid contact with large accumulations of algae. Officials advise the public to:
▪ Keep children and pets away from water that looks bright green, discolored or scummy.
▪ Avoid touching dead fish that may be found near a bloom.
▪ Wash thoroughly if you come in contact with a bloom, and rinse off pets that are exposed with clean water.
▪ Seek medical care if a child appears sick after being in water with algae. Do the same for pets.