Toxic algae poses serious danger in popular Eastside destinations
Twenty Lakes Basin, Rainbow Fall, Bridgeport Reservoir, Deadman Creek affected; more possible
The Eastern Sierra is no longer a high-altitude refuge from toxic algae, after the potentially deadly algae was observed in several local water bodies.
The algae can be found in mats, growing from the bottom of a water body toward the surface, or attached to logs, rocks or soil in the water.
The main water bodies land managers have identified with the algae present are the Bridgeport Reservoir, two lakes in the 20 Lakes Basin (above the Saddlebag Lake area), Deadman Creek and the Rainbow Fall area.
The algae poses a serious danger to people and pets alike, with areas outside of the Eastern Sierra who have had issues with the algae over time reporting numerous deaths of dogs who ingested the algae when drinking or playing in water bodies. That said, there have been no local reports of fatalities in either dogs or people at this time.
The algae prefers slow-moving, warm, shallow water and in a serious drought year, local rivers, creeks and lakes are increasingly all three, allowing the once very rare algae (rare to the Eastern Sierra) to take hold in local areas.
“Recent testing yielded positive results for small amounts of toxic algae in Deadman Creek and visual observations made at Hummingbird and Odell Lakes in the 20 Lakes Basin may indicate toxic algae is also present in these two lakes,” said Inyo National Forest Public Information Officer Deb Schweizer. “Toxic algae may exist in other sites on the forest,” she said.
Toxins are concentrated within the algal mats themselves and released episodically into the water when the algae dies or is disturbed, she said.
“For your safety, do not enter the water or drink in these areas. Filtering and/or boiling the water is not effective against this type of algae,” she said.
“Prevent pets from drinking the water and
eating or touching algae in the water and dried on the shore,” she said. “In particular, prevent dogs from eating dried algal mats on shore,” she said.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE
• Please report any large algal blooms and/or algae that is particularly bright, bubbly, strange
looking, or appears like a haze in the water.
• Do not disturb algal mats in any way. Wading or swimming can cause toxins to be released into
• If you suspect a site has toxic algae, do not enter the water and do not drink water from the area. While some sites are signed based on testing results, it’s likely that algae exists in other parts of the forest. Don’t rely on signage alone.
• According to the California Water Quality Monitoring Council, the following signs and symptoms may occur within 48 hours of exposure to a waterbody with a suspected or confirmed algal bloom: sore throat or congestion; coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing; red, or itchy skin, or a rash; skin blisters or hives; earache or irritated eyes; diarrhea or vomiting; agitation; headache; and/or, abdominal pain
• If people show symptoms of cyanotoxin and/or cyanobacteria exposure after contact with water, or with scums or mats of algae, they should receive immediate medical attention.
• Additional resources are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), and by contacting the California Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).
See the Hab-related Illness Tracking webpage at https://mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/ for information on previously reported human illnesses related to HABS in California.