LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - The extended stretch of hot and dry weather has prompted warnings about blue green algae in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Blue green algae is a form of bacteria that thrives in warm, stagnant, and nutrient rich water. It produces a toxic byproduct that is harmful to humans, can be deadly to pets, and is being found in unsafe levels around the Coulee Region. Exposure to the bacteria can lead to respiratory issues, gastro intestinal problems and rashes.
Blue green algae is naturally occurring and has been around for thousands of years. But abnormally warm water due to the extreme heat, dry conditions causing slow moving waters, and the overuse of fertilizers containing nutrients algae thrive on, have created an ideal environment for the bacteria to live and propagate.
Jim Steinhoff, Health and Lab Manager at the La Crosse County Health Department expects algae levels will begin to moderate with cooler weather and rain. "The warm weather certainly has an impact. The lack of rain certainly has an impact. So as soon as those conditions chance, I would imagine we would see a lessening of the problem" According to Steinhoff, it's not unusual to see blue green algae in the summer. But what is unusual it the duration of the bloom and high amounts of it.
But until algae levels drop, suspicious looking waters should be avoided by people and pets. The algae can take many forms looking like foam, drifting paint, similar to split pea soup, or even a mat of vegetation.
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