Information about Washington State’s freshwater toxic algae blooms now a click away

9 July 2012

You can now go online ( to see if your favorite lake is having problems with toxic algae blooms that can hurt you, your kids or your pets.

Warm temperatures and sunshine feed the growth of toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers. Algae can be smelly, unsightly, and toxic to people, pets and livestock.  And right now is the time for algae blooms to begin showing up. In our region, toxicity tends to be the highest in late summer and fall.

King County just launched a new database in conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) that provides a friendly and searchable website for data from algae samples. The samples are submitted to the state through Ecology’s Freshwater Algae Control Program(  The program paid for the project with funding from vessel registration fees in Washington.

“Since King County has a lot of lakes and its environmental laboratory has a contract to do all of our algae testing, it made sense for them to get a grant from the state to do this work,” said Lizbeth Seebacher, who manages the Ecology program.

Now the information is a click away. The map-based website uses color-coded dots that flag problem areas, and you can dive deeper and learn the history of algae blooms in many locations. There is also a section with educational information about algae blooms.

“Not all algae blooms are toxic, so we advise “when in doubt, stay out,” Seebacher noted, adding, “This advice is for both people and pets.”

If you see a suspicious patch of algae on freshwater, you can report it to the Department of Ecology’s Tricia Shoblom at 425-649-7288, or report it online here (

The freshwater program does not cover algae blooms in marine waters, but you can report those to Ecology, also.

You can do your part to prevent algae blooms in all waters.  If your home uses a septic system, make sure it is regularly maintained and working properly. Reduce the use of fertilizers on your lawn and garden. Pick up your pet waste and manage your livestock manure. Urban runoff contains nutrients that fuel algae blooms, so making small changes in daily activities can help.

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