Update on Lake Olmstead algae; how long we could see it stick around

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Cyanobacteria levels in Lake Olmstead appear to be rising, and if the weather stays this hot, officials say that trend is going to continue.

"It is brutally hot out," said Tonya Bonitatibus, Executive Director of Savannah Riverkeeper. "The water isn't moving. This lake is way too shallow and it's now breeding different types of algae."

Bonitatibus said the lake is a perfect breeding ground for algae. One sign of algae and plant life is bubbles on the surface of the water.

"The bubbles are occurring because the algae and the plants on the bottom are able to get sunlight so they're creating oxygen right now," she said.

Bonitatibus said the water is still safe to kayak or canoe, and that's good news for Cole Verdell. He said he goes kayaking three times per week, but he's started to notice something funky with the water.

"I have notice that the water splashing into my kayak...it smells kinda bad," he said.

Verdell, a dog owner, was shocked at the story of the algae killing dogs in North Carolina and Georgia. He and his wife had their dogs at Lake Olmstead last week, but he said he'll try to avoid taking them back.
"I feel more responsible for my dogs' life than my own, honestly," he said, letting out a laugh.

After talking to News 12, Verdell got in his kayak, put his headphones in, and treated today like any other.

As for when the algae will go away, Bonitatibus said there isn't an exact time. It really just depends on the weather. She said one of two things needs to happen.

"It either has to cool down and kind of run out of steam," she said. "Or two, it needs to run out of its food source."

The algae's food source is nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Those can be found in storm runoff or fertilizer, among other things.
As long as the weather stays this hot, approach Lake Olmstead-and any warm, stagnant water for that matter-with caution.

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