Anderson Lake biotoxin levels drop, still lethal


From the park gate to the water’s edge at Anderson Lake, there are now a dozen bright red warning signs and two posters explaining the dangers of cyanobacteria and other lake-borne toxins.

Securely stapled to park kiosks and to free-standing signposts, they are readable from a car, from horseback, bike or sneakers.

They’d be hard to miss, as would be the sandwich board marked with yellow plastic warning tape at the boat ramp.

But, unless rangers wrap the lake in chain link fencing, a dog’s death and a campground host’s experience suggests the state could be dealing with more poisonings.

For starters, the lake is still poisonous, as it has been for many years. But there’s also the problem of human attraction to lakes.

“We’ve had a fair number of folks who do not read,” Anderson Lake State Park volunteer campground host John Fansler said, standing at the front bumper of his RV, which overlooks the road to the now-closed boat ramp. “I do not understand that.”

On May 22 The Leader reported that Anatoxin-a levels in Anderson Lake were close to 5,000 times the state recreation guidelines. In the three weeks since that report one additional test has been done which measured the toxin levels just slightly above the state’s acceptable guideline of one microgram per liter, a significant decrease, but the water is still extremely dangerous to both humans and pets.

Michael Dawson, water quality manager at Jefferson County Environmental Health, said when blooms begin and can be readily observed on lakes, especially ones with a history as toxic as Anderson’s, testing will drop to once a month.

This was a Washington State Department of Ecology recommendation, Dawson said, because the testing is expensive. Anderson Lake has experienced a bloom every year in the summer months since at least 2008 when regular data started being collected.

Fansler said just two days after he had been rotated to Anderson Lake from Fort Worden, about June 1, he watched as an older couple drove to the yellow “caution”-tape-festooned boat ramp and parked, remaining in the car as a small boy, about four years old, climbed out of their car and ran straight for the water.

Waving his arms and calling to them, Fansler managed to stop the child before he touched the lake that had killed a dog in May.

“I’m glad we were here,” the retired teacher said. An experienced campground host, Fansler said he is new to Anderson Lake, so he isn’t sure if traffic through the park is high or low for this time of year.

Dawson said the significant drop in toxin levels could be due to a “million different factors,” such as the wind blowing the blooms away from the only testing site, at the boat ramp. Taking regular tests all around the lake would be a significant strain on county resources he said.

Since The Leader’s last report, two other lakes in Washington have tested positive for dangerous toxins, Lake Burien in Burien and Lone Lake on Whidbey Island. As of publication Lone Lake’s levels have fallen back below state regulations but Burien Lake remains at dangerous levels.


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