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Fernan Lake second in Kootenai County to face blue-green algae advisory this summer

UPDATED: Wed., July 28, 2021

Toxic blue-green algae blooms in Fernan Lake.  (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)
Toxic blue-green algae blooms in Fernan Lake. (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)

You can add blue-green algae to the list of environmental calamities hitting North Idaho this summer, with Fernan Lake becoming the second lake in Kootenai County to have an advisory for the toxic cyanobacteria.

The Panhandle Health District and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a blue-green algae public health advisory on Wednesday, only a day after they issued an similar advisory for nearby Hayden Lake.

The new advisory urges the public to use caution when recreating in or near waters in Fernan Lake, especially when ingestion is a risk.

Pockets of water with dangerous amounts of blue-green algae are usually visible, with it being more unsightly, scummy and discolored than normal water, according to the Idaho DEQ.

Blue-green algae, despite the name, is actually not algae at all, but a large class of cyanobacteria that thrives in warm and nutrient-rich waters. The bacteria produces dangerous toxins when in high enough concentrations.

It’s not a good idea to swim in water affected by blue-green algae, as side effects can include skin rash, runny nose and irritated eyes, according to the Idaho DEQ.

Effects can be even worse if swallowed, including diarrhea, vomiting and serious illnesses of the liver and nervous system. Toxins of this kind cannot be removed by boiling water.

It’s especially important to protect pets, children, the elderly and the immunocompromised from being exposed, as they are most at risk of detrimental health effects.

Health advisories for Fernan Lake were also issued in 2018 and 2019 for blue-green algae.

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