Willow Creek Algae Alert

PIERCE – Toxic blue-green algae once again shuts down Willow Creek Lake, something officials have been battling for years.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality shut down the lake near Pierce last month, after routine testing found elevated toxin levels produced by blue-green algal blooms at the lake.

Algae may not seem like a problem, but officials say this type is poisonous to humans and animals. In most cases causing skin rashes, nausea and fever. In serious cases, causing liver failure if ingested or being exposed to the water for long periods of time.

Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District General Manager, Mike Sousek says they are looking into how to slow this problem and what they can to do to keep it from happening.

“The algae itself, when they die. They release this toxin and it’s a poison. And so you have to try and keep it away from at least ingesting it. And that why we put the alerts up why it’s best not to go into the water right now.”

Willow Lake has a history of closing more often than others in the sate because of two tributaries that merge nearby.

One stream carries traces phosphorus and the other carries small amounts hydrogen. When combined, it creates a poisonous mix of food for the current algae and bacteria already in the water.

Sousek and the rest of the LENRD says the algae is mostly seasonal, but is made worse by farmland runoff during rainy weather.

“We have had discussions with the board about doing projects where we set up maybe a sediment basin prior to the lake to hold the water. Let everything filter out of it, go through a wetlands before it gets to the lake, so when the water gets to the lake, its clean and that should take care of the problem too.”

Even though officials warn against swimming or letting your pets swim in the lake, boating and fishing are still allowed.

For now, officials are monitoring the situation and are testing the water once a week; letting the public know when it’s back to normal.

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