Toxic algae prompts danger warning at Indian Creek Reservoir

Record Courier Report
A signs posted in July at Indian Creek Reservoir warns visitors of toxic algae.
Kurt Hildebrand/Record Courier

One of the collateral consequences of the Tamarack Fire might be an early blue-green algal bloom at Indian Creek Reservoir generating well above dangerous levels of toxins.

Testing detected the toxin microcystin at all three sites sampled at the lake, and the highest concentrations exceeded the danger level, according to the California Resources Control Board.

Alpine County Public Health Officer Richard Johnson warned visitors to avoid touching the water or anything, like a fish, that had been in the water on Thursday.

“My hypothesis is that significant amounts of ash from the Tamarack Fire surrounding the lake have washed into (it) with each rain event this winter and spring creating a nutrient rich environment facilitating growth of the algae.”

Blooms typically occur later in the summer when water warms up.

The algae produce toxins that at best only cause eye irritation, skin rash and mouth ulcers in humans. At worst symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.

Exposures to the toxins can kill a dog or livestock, and can make children extremely ill.

Johnson said testing of Red and Heenan lakes indicated no toxins. Both lakes typically develop issues later in the season.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.