Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane Co. Public Health Closes Beach at Lake Kegonsa State Park After Water Samples Show High Level of Blue-Green Algae

June 08, 2004
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823 / 712-1950 Gareth Johnson, Dane County Public Health (608) 850-5165 Bob Masnado, DNR Water Quality, (608) 444-5448 / 220-8785
County Executive

Note: A press conference on this issue has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 9, at 10:30 a.m., at the Dane County Executive’s Conference Room, 421 City County Building. Dane County public health officials have closed Lake Kegonsa State Park beach and are cautioning people to avoid swimming, or allowing their pets to swim, in the near-shore waters of Lake Kegonsa. Water samples taken Tuesday revealed high levels of a native blue-green algae suspected of causing seizures in a dog, reported Monday. “We are taking these precautionary steps to protect public health,” said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “We will do additional tests and keep the public informed as we complete the analysis.” Gareth Johnson, Dane County Health Officer, said, “People need to avoid swimming or allowing their children or pets in the near-shore waters of Lake Kegonsa until we can conduct more testing.” The blue green algae are native to Wisconsin and can produce a neurotoxin that can be harmful to health if people or animals ingest large quantities of it. Skin contact with the algae can also produce an allergic reaction. Lake Kegonsa Beach was posted as closed Tuesday night and the health alert issued for the rest of the lake after water samples taken Tuesday morning near the public beach and at another location on the lake were found to have high levels of a native blue-green algae. Department of Natural Resources staff took the samples after receiving a call Monday from a pet owner whose dog suffered seizures after swimming both in Lake Kegonsa and a pond on private land near the lake, said Bob Masnado, head of DNR’s water quality section. The veterinarian that evaluated the dog that became ill indicated that the symptoms were consistent with consumption of toxins produced by naturally occurring blue-green algae, which grows in lakes and ponds. The dog survived. The State Laboratory of Hygiene will finish testing the water samples Wednesday to determine the exact levels of the algae in Lake Kegonsa or the private pond, but they are high enough that Dane County and state officials wanted to err on the side of caution, Masnado says. While problems have not been reported from any other lakes or waters in Dane County, Johnson advises that people who choose to swim, boat or use any of the lakes or any other natural waterbody take precautions if they see thick accumulations of algae. “If you choose to swim in lakes where the algae is present, do not ingest any water. Rinse off after you get out of the water, and do not allow pets or children to swim in water where there is algae present,” said Johnson. The blue-green algae suspected in the dog’s seizures is native to Wisconsin and is widespread in nutrient enriched lakes. These types of algae can occur in water without producing toxins, and it’s not known what conditions trigger the production of the toxins. # # #