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No, KDHE does not have the authority to close a lake. However, KDHE does make public health recommendations and advisories based on analytical results. The lake management officials determine whether and when to actually close lakes or beaches. If there are questions about whether a lake is closed, look at the current watch/warnings tab on this website, consult individual lake websites, or call lake management offices for additional information.
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KKDHE operates a statewide, complaint-based response program. Any member of the public can submit a complaint. In response to each report of a harmful algal bloom in a publicly accessible waterbody, the KDHE Bureau of Water (BOW) works with the Bureau of Environmental Field Services (BEFS) to coordinate an investigation that includes field validation of the complaint, followed by water sample collection and analysis. An outline of the agency's response program can be found here. The response program coordinates closely with the Public Water Supply Section (PWSS) when there are HAB complaints about water bodies that serve as a source for public water supplies.
In addition to receiving and investigating complaints of blue-green algae blooms in public water bodies, KDHE also tracks and investigates reports of human and animal algae-related illnesses. The KDHE Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics (BEPHI) receives these reports; click here for more information from BEPHI.
KDHE has historically responded to HAB issues in Kansas lakes. Due to the increase in notable HAB occurrences, the agency began formalizing a complaint-based response program in 2010. Once a complaint has been validated through field observations, a sample is collected. The sample is examined for the presence of blue-green algae and tested for toxins.
A standard protocol is followed to determine whether public advisories should be issued and to decide the next course of action for monitoring the affected water body. The current HAB season extends from April to October when lakes are most likely to be affected by HABs and members of the public are most likely to recreate in waterbodies.
If a HAB is confirmed in a public water body, KDHE issues advisories works with lake managers to inform the public, and continues to monitor the waterbody until the bloom has subsided.
The KDHE protocols can be found in the "Harmful Algal Bloom KDHE Agency Response Plan."
Due to limited resources, KDHE samples only public use lakes and does so only in response to complaints of human or animal illness or visual sighting of possible blue-green algae by the public or by lake managers. For KDHE to respond to a blue-green algae sighting, a request must be made through the online Algae Bloom Reporting Form. Alternative reporting options include sending an email or calling the HAB hotline at 785-296-1664. Individuals who use these alternative options should expect a time delay, as staff must manually transfer email or phone complaints into the online reporting system.
From recommendations by the World Health Organization and many years of data and statistical analyses, KDHE has established the following recommendations for three advisory levels: Watch, Warning, and Hazard. However, Kansans should be aware that blooms are unpredictable. They can develop rapidly and may move across a lake due to wind or other hydrologic processes, requiring visitors to exercise their best judgment. If there is a surface scum or paint-like surface, or if the water is bright green, avoid contact and keep pets away. These are indications that a harmful bloom may be present. Remember, "When in doubt - stay out!"
Public Health Watch
Harmful algal bloom (HAB) Watch serves as an advisory to notify the public that hazardous conditions are possible or present. A Watch is issued based on visual confirmation of a bloom, microcystin toxin concentrations, and/or blue-green algae cell counts. Visual confirmation is determined by qualified KDHE staff working with lake managers and/or managing agencies using jar tests, photographs, or site visits. A Watch is issued if it has been analytically determined that the microcystin toxin concentration in the water is greater than 4 µg/L but less than or equal to 8 µg/L and/or blue-green algae cell counts are greater than 80,000 cells/mL but less than or equal to 250,000 cells/mL.
The following guidelines are recommended for a public health watch:
Harmful algal bloom (HAB) Warning serves as an advisory to notify the public that conditions are expected to be unsafe for human exposure. A warning will be issued if it has been analytically determined that the microcystin toxin concentrations are greater than 8 µg/L but less than or equal to 2,000 µg/L and/or blue-green algae cell counts are greater than 250,000 cells/mL but less than or equal to 10,000,000 cells/mL. If there is verification of significant blue-green algae surfaces scum present, a "Warning" may be issued based on visual confirmation prior to sample collection.
The following guidelines are recommended for a public health warning:
Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Lake/Beach Closure notifies the public that extreme conditions exist. At this level, it has been analytically determined that the microcystin toxin concentration is greater than 2,000 µg/L and/or cyanobacterial cell count is greater than 10,000,000 cells/mL. It is recommended that either a portion of the lake, entire lake, or zone, be closed and in some cases, the adjacent land (e.g., approximately 100 feet from the shoreline) be closed to the public. Actual setback distances will be determined on a site-specific basis, if necessary. When partial closures (i.e., beach or cove) are issued, the remaining lake or zone area will carry a warning status.
Check the KDHE website for the most up-to-date information about public health watches and warnings at Kansas public lakes, or call the Harmful Algae Bloom Hotline at 785-296-1664. Advisories are posted on the KDHE Harmful Algal Bloom Website. Lake managers are responsible for posting signs at beaches, docks, and other lake entry points to notify citizens of harmful algae to bloom advisories. Contact local lake managers for lake-specific information.