Investigation into possible blue green algae in Bull Creek begins after swimmer gets sick


Blue-green algae near Hudson Bend in Lake Travis back in March (KXAN photo/Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is looking into a report of potential harmful algae in Bull Creek after someone got sick.

The City says the creek doesn’t have any obvious signs of harmful algae, but they’re testing samples and expect to have results back next week.

Symptoms of exposure to harmful algae in people include rash, stomach issues, fever, headache and eye irritation. In dogs, symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, foaming at the mouth, jaundice and stumbling.

Toxic algae — called cyanobacteria — produces toxins and creates algae blooms, which appears to put dogs most at risk. Cyanobacteria is blue-green in color and resulted in at least five dogs dying after swimming in the water in 2019. The city advises pet owners to rinse off their dogs if they do get in the water and take them to a veterinarian if they become sick after water contact.

Where’s all this algae coming from?

Well, technically, it’s been there. It’s just being allowed to run rampant right now.

The culprit? Zebra mussels.

These invasive, rapidly-producing, finger-sized mollusks arrived in North America in the 1980s, experts say. After invading the Great Lakes region, they began appearing all across the U.S. The razor-sharp mussels — which can also pose dangers to swimmers’ feet — attach to hard surfaces and then feed off “good” algae.

The blue-green colored algae is then re-released into the water.

Anyone who believes they have seen zebra mussels in Texas waterways is encouraged to email photos and location information to and report the sighting by calling (512) 389-4848.

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