Parts of Big Bear Lake and Lake Elsinore may contain toxic bacteria algae and state water officials on Tuesday, Aug.16, urged people and pets to stay out of the water.
Swimmers, those who are fishing, people on boats and other visitors are encouraged to stay out of the water at both lakes “until further notice,” news releases from the California Water Resources Control Board and Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board state.
Test results in parts of both Lake Elsinore and Big Bear Lake confirmed the presence of harmful algal blooms, made from a group organisms called cyanobacteria, officials said. The bluish-green-brown colored bacteria can produce potent toxins and are a health threat to humans and pets, officials said.
Cyanobacteria was identified by lab results from samples and observations at both lakes, the releases state. It was not known Tuesday afternoon when the blooms were discovered, when tests occurred, or when results came in.
A harmful algal bloom warning advisory was posted lake-wide at Big Bear Lake. A danger sign stands at the lake’s east end, at Carol Morrison Public Boat Launch.
At both lakes, the algal bloom appears suspended on the water’s surface, the releases state.
Bloom conditions can change quickly as winds and waves move or concentrate the bloom into different areas of the lake. In some regions, the bloom may form a film or scum on the water surface. Water may appear discolored as bright or dark green and brown.
Water officials use the terms “harmful algal blooms” and blue-green algae interchangeably, but “the California Water Boards prefer to test for toxins before declaring them a harmful algal bloom,” California Water Boards spokesperson Blair Robertson said Tuesday.
Signs and alerts are posted at both lakes. Updates for the community will be posted on the California HAB Reports Web Map.
In a Tuesday statement, Lake Elsinore spokesperson Alex Teahen said that the city acted after being notified of the issue.
“In response, the city updated beachfront warning signs and our website to reflect these new advisory levels,” said Teahen, who added that the lake remains open for “boating, fishing, kayaking and more, however swimming is not recommended at this time.”
The city and state regularly sample and monitor the 3,000-acre lake, Teahen said. It has 14 miles of shoreline, mostly within the city limits.
Residents and visitors can keep informed by visiting Lake Elsinore’s website.
Visitors to both lakes are encouraged to do the following, until further notice:
- Don’t swim.
- Don’t let animals go in or drink the water. Pets also should not eat scum on the shore.
- Stay away from scum, cloudy or discolored water.
- Don’t eat shellfish from the water.
- Don’t use the water for drinking or cooking.
- For fish that has been caught here, throw away the guts and clean fillets with tap or bottled water before cooking.
At the east end of Big Bear Lake, visitors are advised to stay out of the water, including those using watercraft.
Similar blooms at Lake Elsinore occurred in 2016 and in 2018. In 2018, blue-green algae blooms also temporarily shut down Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, and other lakes, streams and reservoirs across the state.
People should alert medical authorities and county public health departments about possible contact with cyanobacteria and seek medical treatment if a person, pet, or livestock has become ill after going in the water.
To report a algal bloom, the public can fill out a Bloom Report form on the website, email CyanoHAB.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the toll-free hotline: 1-844-729-6466.
For more information about harmful algal blooms, visit the California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal website.