Algae blooms bring worries to post-holiday lakes

SPANAWAY, Wash. — A new cluster of algae blooms are growing in Pierce County, and water lovers at Spanaway and Waughop Lakes should be on alert.

“It looks like kind of a pea soup type stuff. It usually comes in little splotches,” said Mel Oleson, a homeowner on Spanaway Lake who also volunteers for the state and county to monitor water quality.

Pierce County Health researcher Austin Jennings runs test every few days and says this year’s algae is on the rise as warm weather sets in.

“A really powerful liver toxin, which can actually cause you to have severe gastrointestinal illness and actually die,” he warns.

Jennings' data shows that it's not there yet, but the mix of more boats have kicked up prime breeding for the algae.

“One of the oldest organisms on the planet. Naturally occurring,” Jennings said.

But humans are to blame for encouraging the growth.

“It blows the sediment off the bottom. That releases the phosphorous. The phosphorous with the sunlight then creates the algae,” Oleson said.

That phosphorous has become concentrated this season, they say, because of leaking septic systems, people not picking up after dog waste, and using too much fertilizer.

The runoff goes into the lakes.

Jennings said there haven't been deaths in the past, and the concentration of algae isn't enough to cause a closure.

It’s unclear how long the advisory will last.