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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) has confirmed the presence of harmful algal blooms (HABs), or cyanaobacteria, levels exceeding recommended safety thresholds at four lakes in central Kentucky.
According to a news release from the Commonwealth of Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet, the affected lakes include Beaver Lake in Anderson County, Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County, Lake Reba in Madison County and Willisburg Lake in Washington County.
The World Health Organization has established a "cautionary" threshold of cyanobacteria cell concentrations at 100,000 cells per milliliter (/ml).
The four Kentucky lakes were found to exceed the threshold during two rounds of testing by DOW.
HABs produce toxins that may be hazardous to animals and humans. Symptoms of HAB exposure may include gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; skin and eye irritation; and/or throat irritation or breathing difficulties.
If you are concerned that you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to HABs, please see your doctor and call your local health department.
DOW has been working with a number of agencies to develop an HAB testing protocol for Kentucky lakes as well as public notification procedures when HABs are identified at levels of concern.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began monitoring USACE-owned lakes in Kentucky for the presence of cyanobacteria. USACE announced excessive levels of cyanobacteria had been identified in Taylorsville, Nolin, Barren, Rough River and Green River lakes, prompting USACE and state officials to issue public warnings to avoid or minimize human and animal contact with algae-infested waters.
The discovery of the presence of the elevated HAB counts in USACE lakes led DOW to initiate HAB testing for 14 other Kentucky lakes which DOW speculated most at risk for HABs and which are used for recreation and/or serve as public water supplies.
These initial assessments serve as a means to gauge the magnitude of HAB issues in Kentucky's lakes. The lakes where DOW conducted its assessments include:
Reformatory Lake (Oldham County); Bullock Pen Lake (Grant County); Boltz Lake (Grant County) Elmer Davis Lake (Owen County); A.J. Jolly Lake (Campbell County); Cedar Creek Lake (Lincoln County); General Butler State Park (Carroll County); Beaver Lake (Anderson County); Guist Creek Lake (Shelby County); Willisburg Lake (Washington County); Herrington Lake (Boyle, Garrard, Mercer counties); Lake Reba (Madison County); Wilgreen Lake (Madison County); and McNeely Lake (Jefferson County).
Better known as blue-green algae, harmful algal blooms occur naturally in the environment. Environmental conditions, including excess phosphorus and nitrogen, sunny conditions, warm temperatures and low-flow or low-water conditions -- contribute to the rapid reproduction and spread of the algae in a waterbody.
The more typical green algae, which is not harmful to humans or animals, come in many forms and may appear as underwater moss, stringy mats or floating scum.
Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies of bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear as red or brown.