CHESHIRE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — In the middle of a beautiful Michigan summer, there’s a health hazard at Swan Lake in Allegan County.
Blue-green algae blooms have been found in the lake recently. On Friday, the Allegan County Health Department confirmed the blooms are harmful.
Elizabeth Andre calls the lake “home.” She’s lived nearby her whole life. She used to take her kids out and go fishing on the boat.
“I’m not gonna be swimming in land lakes very much anymore,” Andre said. “I don’t take my grandparents here to play or my kids.”
The algae is only in parts of the lake, making the water look like spilled paint or pea soup.
On Friday, the county health department warned that if you see algal blooms, don’t go in the water because there could be harmful toxins. Health officials also recommended making sure pets don’t drink the water or go in it either.
“I’m really sad by it,” Andre said. “There’s a dog that lives right across the street. And if he goes over there and drinks out of the lake … he risks getting sick and dying. That’s just scary.”
Advisory signs are posted around the lake, urging people to be on the lookout for harmful algae. The signs do indicate you can go in the water where the harmful algae is not visible.
If you or your pet get exposed, health officials recommend showering and calling your doctor, poison control or a veterinarian. The health department said symptoms of illness often appear sooner in animals than in humans, even within minutes or hours.
Symptoms in animals can include vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, staggered walking, excessive salivation, convulsions, erratic behavior, physical distress, and death. If you start to have symptoms, call your doctor or Poison Control at 800.222.1222.
Samples of the blue-green algae blooms, also known as cyanobacteria, will be sent to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for additional testing.
Shawna Brown, who has lived on the lake for three years, said the algae was also a problem last summer after flooding swept through the area last June.
“The fields flooded from over across the street,” Brown said. “It came down in torrents. My daughter wanted to get a sled out to slip and slide. That’s how bad it was.”
She said the algae popped up afterwards, prompting neighbors to call in the health department in late July to investigate.
“This is light compared to what it was last year,” Brown said. “It was this frothy green horrible looking lake. We knew something was wrong.”
Now the algae is back again, keeping Brown away from the lake.
“I’ve been out on the boat twice this year,” Brown said. “And I’ve been in the water once. That’s not me. I grew up on a lake, so I love to be in the lake.”
She hopes something can be done to prevent this from happening in the future.
“Help us keep the algae down,” she said. “And tell us how to fix it. That’s what I’d like to know.”
Andre agreed that the issues are happening more often.
“It’s becoming more prevalent,” she said. “It seems like very often.”
For more information on harmful algae blooms and your health, contact MDHHS at 800.648.6942.
— News 8’s Corinne Moore contributed to this report.