Dog-dangerous algae toxins to be monitored this summer at Austin lakes

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The harmful to dogs, algae toxins previously found in Austin lakes will be continuously monitored by environmental scientists, according to a release from the City of Austin.

The Watershed Protection Department has expanded its monitoring plan to year-round and will include all three lakes in Austin’s jurisdiction after the algae was found earlier this year in several Central Texas lakes, the release says.

Over the last two years, several dogs have become sick or died after swimming in Austin lakes.

The department is also attempting to get a pilot program passed through Austin City Council to prevent further growth of the algae.

Pending council approval, the pilot project would use a phosphorus-binding clay called Phoslock, which would be applied by boat over 20 acres of water around Red Bud Isle. There would be three applications over the course of nine weeks, starting June 21. For 2021, the cost is $300,000 and includes the material, the application and extensive laboratory testing, the City release says.

The Phoslock-treated area should see a decrease in the amount and the toxicity of blue-green algae. Phoslock is safe for humans, wildlife and the environment, the City says.

However, scientists are unsure how effective the treatment will be and urges Austin residents and visitors to continue to treat algae with caution. Dog owners should treat all algae as if it contains toxins, stopping their dogs from touching or ingesting algae in any Central Texas waterways.

The Watershed Protection Department will monitor three sites on Lake Austin and three sites on Lady Bird Lake (shown in the map below) for the toxic algae every other week throughout the summer. One site at Lake Walter E. Long will be monitored at least three times during the summer, the City says. The site visits may be scaled back in frequency as the year progresses, the City says.

Map of sites to be monitored by Watershed Protection Department (City of Austin)

Testing results will be available in mid-June and can be found here.

Are cyanotoxins harmful to humans?

Harmful algal blooms in freshwater environments can cause skin, eye, nose, throat and respiratory irritation for humans if you breathe in the toxins as a mist or have direct contact on your skin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No human deaths caused by cyanotoxins have been reported in the United States, the CDC said, but dogs are especially at risk for poisoning because of their behaviors, like licking algae or scum from their fur after swimming.

Contact your health provider if you believe you’ve developed symptoms from cyanotoxins.

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