The town of Southern Pines announced Friday that cyanobacterial blooms are present in Reservoir Park Lake. This is a naturally-occurring microscopic blue-green algae and often grow in fresh bodies of water; however, children and dogs can be particularly vulnerable if exposed to its potential toxins.
No fishing is permitted at Reservoir Park until further notice. Town officials recommend if people or pets come into contact with the algae, to rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible, and do not allow pets to lick the algae off their fur.
Reservoir Park is one of the town’s most popular destinations for residents and visitors alike. The 165-acre park is home to a 95-acre lake that is used for fishing and other watercraft sports, hiking and nature trails connecting to 12 miles of greenways, a disc golf course, and picnic shelters.
Southern Pines Recreation and Parks Director Robert Reeve said he first noticed algae floating near the dock a few days ago.
“None of us had ever seen anything like it, and we started making some calls,” Reeve said.
The state’s Department of Environmental Quality - Water Quality Division responded and collected samples from the lake.
“We were notified today (Friday) that it was cyanobacteria,” added Reeve.
This time of year is peak season for algal blooms as ponds and lake water are warmer.
Reeve said state officials told him there are no recommended treatments or chemicals needed to fix the problem. The algae bloom is a natural process and will dissipate on its own.
“There is no real time frame they go by. But one would think as it gets cooler, it will go away,” he said.
Any changes to the precautionary measures the town has put in place will be announced.
“It really is exposure to the algae, not the water, that is the issue. People can’t go in the water anyway, you are not even supposed to wade at Reservoir Park. Our main concern is to alert dog owners,” Reeve said.
The town has also recommended that people and pet owners should exercise caution around Longleaf, Pine Grove and Warrior Woods lakes as well. These three lakes are not public bodies of water, but are located within the town limits.
Blue-green algae made headlines this summer, particularly after three dogs died after being exposed to cyanobacteria at a pond in Wilmington. There have also been reports in recent weeks from other states, including Texas and Ohio, of dog deaths related to exposure.
According to the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services, when small numbers of cyanobacteria explosively grow into large numbers very quickly, this rapid increase is called a bloom. The bloom can become harmful to people, pets, livestock, and aquatic plants and animals by producing toxins, shading light, and clogging gills in fish.
Algal blooms tend to concentrate in shallow areas of a pond or lake due to wind and water currents, where the toxins can become concentrated.
The N.C. Department of Health & Human Services recommends the following steps to safeguard pets and children from harmful cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) blooms:
Keep children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy.
Do not handle or touch large accumulations ("scums" or mats) of algae.
Do not water ski or jet ski over algal mats.
Do not use scummy water for cleaning or irrigation.
If you accidentally come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
If your pet appears to stumble, stagger, or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately.
If your child appears ill after being in waters containing a bloom, seek medical care immediately.
If you are unsure whether or not a bloom is present, it is best to stay out of the water.