AUSTIN (KXAN) — With summer just around the corner, many more Central Texans will be in the water to find some relief from the heat.
Yet, toxic algae season has arrived early and several factors are pointing towards the possibility of a more severe season this summer in Austin.
This spring, scientists from the City of Austin already discovered blue-green algae on Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin. Also known as Cyanobacteria, these blooms are a growing global threat that can produce dangerous toxins that can sicken people and pets.
Since 2019, Austin’s Watershed Protection Department has been studying blue-green algae. This came after several dogs died at Red Bud Isle on Lady Bird Lake.
This summer, the City plans to spend roughly $300,000 on treatment and testing of the toxic algae, using phoslock to cut off nutrients to the algae and keep it from spreading.
Lucia Ross is the chief marking officer with BlueGreen Water Technologies. She said it’s best to steer clear of this gooey substance floating on the water.
“Sometimes it looks like a paint smear on top of the water,” Ross said. “It’s bluish green as aptly named. You’ll see a lot of biomaterials that look like mats on the water.”
Brent Bellinger, a supervisor for the Austin Watershed Protection Department, said his team will begin closely monitoring the blue-green algae this month. They’ll administer three treatments of phoslock at affected areas over a three-month period.
As for how to know what your toxic algae risk level is at, he had a few tips.
“If the water has some flow to it and there’s no discoloration, mat material or foul smells present, these are good quick indicators that your risk level is reduced,” he said.