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Wyoming News: Environmental Staff Plans to Test for Toxic Algae| Wyoming News

Wyoming News: Environmental Staff Plans to Test for Toxic Algae| Wyoming News

Environmental Staff Making Plans to Test for Toxic Algae | Wyoming News

By NICOLE POLLACK, Casper Star-Tribune

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) Although harmful algae season is still months away, Wyoming regulators are already preparing to test for toxins in some of the state’s most vulnerable waters.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality began tracking harmful algal Blooms in the state in 2017. The agency reviews the findings from previous years every spring to improve its strategy for next year.

DEQ staff discussed their learnings from the 2021 bloom seasons at a virtual public meeting that took place March 24.

Last year, the DEQ relied on citizen reports and satellite imagery for help in detecting and tracking blooms. DEQ staff began routine monitoring at 20 popular recreation areas in collaboration with other state agencies. They also introduced tiered health advisories instead of blanket warnings to distinguish potentially dangerous blooms from those that are actively producing toxins.

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The agency now needs to incorporate the lessons learned from 2021 into its 2022 plans. It’s just beginning to imagine what that might look.

Lindsay Patterson, supervisor of surface water quality standards at Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, stated that we are trying to identify other water bodies and monitor them to see what our resources are.

In recent years, algal blooms that can cause harm have been a growing concern in the United States. The small organisms that cause these blooms thrive in warmer waters as a result of climate change. They thrive in water with high levels of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients. This is because rainwater transports nutrients from nearby sources such as manure to nearby lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams.

It can be difficult to regulate nutrients. Patterson said that while the state is currently developing standards to lower nutrient levels in surface water, it cannot take a one-size-fits all approach.

She stated that the local community must be involved in addressing the problem. This is what will be most effective moving forward.

In a policy memorandum published Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed its commitment to support states’ efforts in reducing nutrient contamination.

Radhika Fox, EPA assistant manager for water, stated that the nutrients memo calls for the scaling up of innovative approaches being used in agriculture, ranching, water agencies, local municipalities and industry.

Wyoming regulators are more knowledgeable about harmful algal blooms now than they were in 2017.

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Patterson said that the DEQ has counted more flowers every year it looked almost certain, Patterson explained, because they have improved their ability to find them. Last summer, the Wyoming Department of Health issued bloom advisory for 28 water bodies and toxin advisories on eight of them.

Patterson said that there are just more eyes on ground.

But there are still many questions for the state. It knows, for instance, that less than half the harmful algal blooms documented have been found to produce dangerous levels toxins. It isn’t sure why.

People who are exposed to these toxins while swimming in surface water can experience gastrointestinal problems, rashes, or cold-like symptoms. They may even need hospitalization. Humans are more vulnerable than pets. They might start to stutter or cough after being exposed. Their condition could quickly deteriorate, leading to death.

Patterson stated that if pets or humans become ill after coming in contact with water, it is important to report the illness to the DEQ.

Harmful blooms of algal blooms are most common in Wyoming between mid-July to November. The public can view a map of bloom advisories maintained at the agency before recreating. Also, be aware of signs warning of toxin danger.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material cannot be published, broadcast or rewritten.

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