Toxie Algae bloom closes Panguitch Lake
The green scum may have moved, but Panguitch Lake remains closed and potentially hazardous after being covered in a blanket of toxic algae last week.
Researchers from the Utah Division of Water Quality traveled from Salt Lake City on Monday to take samples to find out why this has happened. Wind had concentrated the algae in northeastern part of the lake.
Several environmental factors may have contributed to the bloom, the researchers said. Warm summer weather along with autumn leaves falling into the lake provided nutrients and energy for the growth. Also, Panguitch Lake still contains nutrient-dense ash from the June 2017 Brian Head Fire.
Water quality technician Ryan Parker said most harmful algae blooms tend to thrive under similar conditions, so more research is needed to know exactly when the lake can reopen.
“We are looking for correlations so that we may be able to better understand and predict why and when this happens. If I had to guess when the algae might clear, it would be late October.”
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department issued a danger advisory Sept. 24 saying that exposure to toxic algae can irritate people's skin or cause gastrointestinal illness. Some toxins can cause respiratory or neurological problems.
Despite the closure, some people were still fishing at the lake Monday. Parker added that anglers need to take note that toxic algae can cause liver failure, and that fish caught from the lake may contain the toxins.
“I wouldn’t eat the fish here for now,” Parker said. He said that if you must eat the fish, “at least wash the fish really well before preparing."
The samples taken from the lake will travel back to a lab in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, and scientists said they should have a better idea about lake conditions by Friday.
The health department also people who have been exposed to toxic algae blooms should contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. The blooms can be reported to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality at 801-536-4123.