AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin will spend roughly $300,000 on treatment and testing of water after the Watershed Protection Department received a lab sample Thursday that indicated toxic blue-green algae is present in Lady Bird Lake. The sample was collected at Red Bud Isle, which has a dog park, early last week.
The city said it will be treating the water with Phoslock, which cuts off nutrients to the algae and keeps it from spreading.
Austin officials said Watershed Protection put Phoslock in 22 acres of Lady Bird Lake near Red Bud Isle last year and found that it reduced phosphorus by 40%. They also found the treatment lasted for months.
This year, officials said they will expand that treatment to the north shore of Lady Bird Lake from I-35 to the lagoon by the Festival Beach boat ramp. That will happen Monday and Tuesday of next week, according to a release. The city will also look to reapply Phoslock at Red Bud Isle Wednesday.
Roughly 30,000 pounds of the material will go to each location next week. There will be another treatment later this summer at both locations, too.
The cost of the treatment as well as the testing and lab work is $300,000, according to the city.
Why is toxic blue-green algae a problem?
Blue-green algae can make people sick and can even kill pets. Several dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake in 2019 because of toxic blue-green algae.
Dogs that ingest water contaminated with the toxin found in blue-green algae could have a number of symptoms that show up within minutes or hours of exposure. Those symptoms include excessive drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling, muscle twitches and respiratory paralysis. Dogs that are exposed can die from the toxin.
The city said even though this treatment will help combat the amount of algae this summer, it could still be present. They recommended avoiding contact with algae, rinsing off after swimming and not allowing dogs to lick their fur after swimming.
They also recommend not entering water that is warm, not running or has scum, film or algae.
How can I check for blue-green algae?
Watershed Protection tests for algae biweekly at Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin during the summer. You can find the results here.
There is a one- to two-week turnaround time for results, the city said.