Blue-green algae found at Fountain Lake, airing caution for swimmers

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(ABC 6 News) – Time at the lake is a Minnesota summer tradition but people in Albert Lea may need to stay out of the waters in one of their lakes due to an invasive blue-green algae.

This has led to a local water ski show being canceled. They do not know what type of blue-green algae this is and because of that, the Shell Rock River Watershed District is asking people to refrain from swimming in Fountain Lake until further notice.

Fountain Lake is a popular hangout spot for Albert Lea summers, but a lack of rain mixed in with many hot days can turn water the wrong color blue. And that’s what has happened on Fountain Lake within the last week.

“There’s multiple types of blue green algae and some are toxic, or can release a toxin. We don’t know what kind we have on Fountain Lake,,” said Andy Henschel, administrator for Shell Rock River Watershed District.

Testing to find the toxins in blue-green algae can take several days, and with the Shell Rock Watershed only discovered the algae within the last week. They’re airing on the side of caution to anyone wanting to enjoy Fountain Lake.

And while the watershed advises people not to swim, ski, or tube on the water, it’s up to the city to close beachhead access if the algae proves to be toxic.

Blake Newton loves to spend his summertime fishing at Fountain Lake and the algae doesn’t have as much an impact on the fish, so he’s not worried.

“Not really, I just throw my normal bait, something shiny. It’s so calm and peaceful out here and especially being when there’s no one, it’s just you and the water, really nothing can go wrong,” said Newton.

Henschel confirms fishing is a low-risk activity that people can still enjoy on Fountain Lake.

And while it may still be some time before they know how toxic this algae is, they promise better technology is coming to read the algae levels come next summer.

“We are looking at putting some constant water monitoring probes in the lakes we’ll actually be getting 15-minute updates but they won’t be going in until next year as they’re quite extensive and setting them up and stuff,” said Henschel.

The City of Albert Lea has not yet issued any warning to keep people from swimming in the lake. The Shell Rock River Watershed District hopes to have their results on the type of blue-green algae they’re dealing with by the end of next week.