Toxic algae persists at popular Walla Walla wildlife refuge

The Walla Walla Department of Community Health was told about the discovery back in August. Current testing showed elevated levels of toxic algae.
Health Alert: Potentially deadly toxin found in Moses Lake
A toxic algae sign posted by the Washington State Department of Health.

WALLA WALLA – A large area of a popular wildlife refuge remain closed after testing found elevated levels of toxic algae, according to Walla Walla health officials.

Back in August, the Walla Walla Department of Community Health (DCH) said it was notified by the Department of Ecology that Cyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae, was found at McNary National Wildlife Refuge.

The toxic substance was found in sloughs 3 and 4 and that area of the refuge was closed. When health officials tested the areas again, they said the sloughs still showed elevated levels of the bacteria.

Due to this discovery, the sloughs will remain closed until further notice. McNary visitors are not allowed to swim, fish, boat, drink or engage in any water contact activity in these sloughs at this time.

Blue-green algae can be deadly. It can cause serious illnesses in humans as well as in pets. DCH officials said people and pets get exposed to the toxin while swimming or doing other activities in the water. People and pets can also be affected by breathing in tiny droplets in the air that contain the bacteria or by eating fish or shellfish that have been swimming in contaminated water.

Symptoms of exposure include stomach ache, headache, muscle weakness, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.

DCH officials said the area will continue to be monitored and will be reopened once the toxins return to a safe level for people and pets.