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News / Health / Clark County Health

Clark County Public Health: Avoid water at Vancouver, Camas lakes

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 31, 2023, 5:26pm

As summer blazes on, local residents may be eager to cool off where they can. But before the community makes its way to the shores, Clark County Public Health advises the public to avoid certain lakes due to the presence of cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae.

As of Aug. 1, the following lakes and ponds contain the presence of blue-green algae: Lacamas Lake and Vancouver Lake.

Exacerbated by warm weather, the presence of blue-green algae in water is harmful to adults and children, domestic pets and livestock. Ingesting or coming into contact with cyanobacteria can cause rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory illness, seizures and possible death for small animals.

This weekend, temperatures could rise to 89 and 90 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. Clark County should expect temperatures as high as 90 degrees beginning Monday.

Clark County Public Health warns against swimming and drinking at the sites mentioned above. Those who fish at these sites should clean and gut their fish well before eating.

Once a week, Public Health tests toxin levels. Marissa Armstrong, communications program coordinator, says once those levels are within the state advisory, lakes will be safe for swimming.

“If people see water that looks scummy just stay out,” Armstrong said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

But not all hope is lost.

Popular swimming sites, such as the Washougal River and Bonneville Dam, are safer choices as the hot weather has warmed what in June was icy water.

Throughout July, water temperatures have averaged between 66 and 71 degrees, with the Washougal River at 67 degrees and the Bonneville Dam at 71 degrees.

Earlier this summer, Tyler Kranz, lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Portland, warned the public about cold water shock.

As the weekend approaches, the community should also stay hydrated and cool off in air conditioning when possible.

To view water temperature for local lakes, visit Lower Columbia River Temperature Report for July at crohms.org.

For access to ecology results, or to report a bloom, visit: https://www.nwtoxicalgae.org/.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.