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Great Lakes Article:

Tests find poison in Lake Champlain algae
By Wilson Ring
Associated Press Writer
Published August 19th, 2004


MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The Vermont Health Department is urging people and their pets to stay out of sections of northeastern Lake Champlain where there have been buildups of a toxic blue-green algae.

A neurotoxin was found in algae samples taken earlier this week, said Mary Watzin, the head of the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory at the University of Vermont, where the tests were conducted.

"Where there are dense accumulations of algae there are toxins present at levels of concern," Watzin said. "It's moderately elevated. It's best if people avoid the dense accumulations."

The toxin microcystin was found in samples taken from blue-green algae that have been spreading throughout sections of the lake this summer.

Earlier this summer the Vermont Health Department issued an advisory urging people and pets to stay out of areas Missisquoi Bay that were covered with blue-green algae.

The Health Department's alert includes the following areas:

_ Missisquoi Bay.

_ The Highgate shoreline and shipyard area.

_ North Hero State Park.

_ Off the Vermont Route 78 bridge.

_ Some areas of the shoreline along the inland sea in the Swanton, Alburg, and St. Albans areas.

_ Alburg Springs.

_ Chapman's Bay.

Shelburne Pond in the town of Shelburne also contains blue-green algae blooms, the Health Department said.

The Health Department said that common purification methods, such as boiling, ultraviolet light and chlorination, will not destroy the toxins formed in the blooms.

Watzin said microcystin can be fatal in large enough doses. Smaller amounts can cause stomach upset and skin rashes.

Dogs have died after eating the algae or drinking water in an area where a toxic algae bloom is taking place. They may also ingest the algae by licking their fur after they have been in water that is thick with algae.

Blue-green algae blooms were first observed on the Quebec side of Missisquoi Bay this summer. Since July the blooms have extended farther south, and strong winds over the weekend broke up and dispersed the blooms even further.

Public recreation areas along the affected northern shore have been posted with health alerts by town health officers.


Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press

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