Kayak businesses begin to rethink Lake Olmstead following blue green algae testing

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Lake Olmstead supports a booming business and is a big recreational spot for many in the community.

But for now, one kayak rental company is going to avoid the lake altogether.

Many would-be lake-goers start out in the canal and make their way downstream under the I-20 bridge to the lake in a kayak.

Many kayak rental businesses are praying the algae doesn't force them to close up shop.

"Hopefully it won't, and hopefully people will realize there's definitely nothing to worry about in the canal,” Steve Wright, one of the owners of Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental, said. “It's fantastic."

Wright is not too worried, he says.

“They are with us all the time,” Wright said. “Anywhere you have water, you are going to have cyanobacteria or blue green algae."

Wright says that’s even in the canal. But that’s not what you have to worry about -- it’s the toxins.

"Some of them do release toxic compounds,” Wright said. “For the most part, they're not noticeable, but when you have stagnant water or when water gets really warm like it is right now they are going to bloom. They're going to increase rapidly."

Wright has a masters in zoology and used to teach biology, so he knows a thing or two about bacteria. He says people are still coming out to rent kayaks, but he's altered the route.

"For us right at the moment, we're not going to use the Lake Olmstead for a little while just to be safe,” Wright said.

Instead, they'll be picking up kayakers before they make it that far. Others are steering clear.

Wright says since the canal is cool moving water coming from Clarks Hill, he's hoping it doesn't become an issue.

"I'm sure we have blue green algae here, but if we have it where the toxins are going to be a problem, I think we would have to close up," Wright said.

On the canal, it’s a reality he's hoping not to face.

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