The area man who lost a dog to the neurotoxins in Anderson Lake is criticizing Washington State Parks for what he says is insufficient response to clear danger and says he worries the water-borne toxins could have a broader impact.
Mike Moore from Poulsbo was on a Mother’s Day outing May 12 when his daughter’s dog, “Clue” stepped in the water and almost immediately fell ill. It died within three hours and his daughter fell ill as well, although it’s unclear if her contact with the wet dog was the cause of her hospital visit.
Moore returned to Anderson Lake May 16, with a television reporter in tow, to show reporters the picnic area and walking trail that his family visited that Mother’s Day.
Although both areas border the water, neither one had been taped off to public access, nor posted with additional signs.
“She slipped into the lake because she thought she was stepping on ground, but it turned out to be plants on top of the water,” Moore said. “Imagine a small child running along this trail, slipping in by accident and being exposed to this nasty stuff.”
According to Moore, an additional handwritten sign warning about the lake’s toxicity appeared on the bulletin board next to the boat launch May 13, followed by a poster which more explicitly outlined the dangers of cyanobacteria.
Asked why Anderson Lake hasn’t simply been quarantined, Michael Dawson, water quality manager for Jefferson County Environmental Public Health said the lake belongs to State Parks. “They manage the land, so it’s up to them,” Dawson said.
Jay Carmony, southwest region assistant Manager for Washington State Parks, said May 21 that the department is working to place signs at trail junctions circumnavigating the lake, so that hikers will see them regardless of where they’ve entered.
Like Dawson, Carmony has been asked why State Parks doesn’t just shut down Anderson Lake State Park, but to his mind, every state park requires a balance of public access and public safety.
“All our green spaces have hazards,” Carmony said. “We do our best to notify the public of these hazards, but we want them to have areas to recreate.”
“The Department of Fish and Wildlife also has an interest in keeping the area open, since they stock the lake with fish every year. We report to these agencies every time there is an algae bloom, and what level its toxicity is, but it remains a popular destination in spite of that.”
Dawson added that cleaning the lake isn’t as simple as cleaning one’s pool.
“You can’t just add chlorine,” Dawson said. “When you have so many algae continuing to release toxins, the question becomes, how do you stop them from multiplying in the first place?”
Dawson explained the well serving the on-site ranger’s house at Anderson Lake State Park, which is only 200 feet removed from the lake itself, has been tested for the past two years, but no toxins have been detected.
“We’ll test it again this spring, but since it’s the well closest to the lake, we don’t believe any other wells are at risk,” Dawson said. “Luckily, the drainage from the lake is fairly small.”
And while it is possible for the blue-green algae to become airborne, Dawson believes one would have to be extremely close to the lake during high wind conditions, “while the water is white-capping,” to be exposed.
As far as Dawson is aware, no test exists to detect if toxins from the lake can be aerosolized by wind, told The Leader he would inquire further.
To prevent any further illness or loss of life due to the cyanobacteria, Dawson noted the lake would remain closed until it has passed two consecutive toxin tests, and added that Washington State Parks, in addition to taping off the boat ramp and posting warning signs at the bulletin board next to the launch, is looking at posting more signs.
“Once the lake is closed, it typically stays closed through the summer into the fall,” Dawson said. “The State Parks and Public Health websites have posted warnings, and we’re getting the word out through the press and on social media such as our Facebook pages.”
Dawson is unable to categorize which species are and aren’t affected by the cyanobacteria, especially since they have no evidence of animals killed by the toxin.
“If a raccoon has gone in the water and then gone off to die somewhere, we haven’t found a body,” Dawson said. “If we were to find dead wildlife by the lake, we would contact a veterinarian to try and determine a cause of death. We had an anecdote about someone seeing a sick beaver, but we never found a body.”
Carmony emphasized that State Parks take seriously the input they’ve received from the public on this issue, and are working to incorporate that feedback into their operations.
“Even before this, our people were working hard to protect the public at our parks,” Carmony said. “I own two dogs myself, so I feel terrible for this family’s loss.”