Tom Stiles with KDHE discusses Blue-Green Algae in Kansas

(Tom Stiles) I’m Tom Stiles, Assistant Director of Bureau of Water, KDHE. Water quality is the name of our game and given that Kansas is such a rural state so heavily steeped in the agriculture economy, we’re talking with farmers to find ways that we can work toward common goals of improving our water quality, while recognizing they maintain a healthy bottom line with the investments they make on their landscapes. In the past five to six years, the blue-green algae or Cyanobacteria have become much more prolific in many of our reservoirs and our lakes. We see them almost every summer now in over 20 of our lakes of all sizes. Probably our biggest problem area has been Milford Lake, where the blooms that have appeared each summer have been very persistent and extend well into the fall. They disrupt the recreation use of the lake, they hamper the ability of the prized fishery there in the lake of being able to proliferate and they impart problems to the drinking water that Milford helps supply along Kansas River. Even more so one other thing that’s emerging is that these blooms because of their nature in terms of how they look and how they smell have impacted quality of life of the communities, along the lake. Towns like Milford and certainly Wakefield that have suffered for at least for the last two summers because of the high density of the blooms that we’ve seen on the upper part of the lake. That has become a very powerful impact on our local communities that almost goes beyond just the classic sense of water quality but affecting Kansas way of life as well. The best thing about the blue-green algae is it’s pretty visible, it’s not like anything you would typically see in the in the course of there. It looks like someone dumped paint on your pond or it’s a scum. Certainly there’s smells associated with it, sometimes it smell almost like diesel in nature. When you’re encountering that sort of thing it’s pretty simple to grab or get a water sample and the K-State Vet School has been very, very good at quickly analyzing it and letting the landowner or the ag producer know “Yes you’ve got blue-green there” If that’s the case move the cattle livestock away from that as your water supply until well past, that bloom has crashed out and maybe there’s been a chance to flush some of those toxins out of there. K-State has offered for a number of years now resources to help inform our ag producers in terms of the state and quality of their livestock watering supplies. We have a very robust website that touches on the blue-green algae issue there, tracks what’s lakes are currently afflicted by these blooms, as well as give background information in terms of what the blooms are, what their hazards and dangers are. What you should look for and generally how to best deal with them whether you’re someone recreating in a lake or you’re going to use the lake for livestock watering and etc. There’s a wealth of information there that can be found at the KDHE website.

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