Harmful algae blooms found across Montana

Photo Courtesy of Montana Department of Environmental Quality

MISSOULA - In the last few years, the Montana Department of Environmental quality has received dozens of reports of toxic algae blooms in local lakes and reservoirs.  

While no one has died in Montana from toxic algae blooms, there have been previous reports of animals dying from contaminated water. 

"Blue/green algae blooms, we call them harmful algal blooms, they have the potential to produce toxins," Water Quality Specialist for the Montana Department Environmental Quality Hannah Riedl said. 

Riedl said this year there has been one report of someone experiencing itchy skin from getting in the water. Last summer, the Newlan Creek reservoir had a confirmed case of toxic blue/green algae. Riedl added there have been cases across Montana

How do you spot harmful algae in bodies of water? 

"One really common appearance is spilled paint like a latex appearance. Sometimes there will be very bright turquoise color chunks in it, and another common appearance is kind of like grass clipping floating around," Riedl said. 

Recently a story made national headlines where a North Carolina woman took her three dogs to a pond to play. Several hours later, the woman says her dogs died from toxic algae

"The problem with blue/green algae toxicity is it's very quick in on-set so a dog ingesting contaminated water can show symptoms in a short period of time and can die in a very short period of time -- 12 to 24 hours," Alpine Veterinary Services Marcos Puiggari said. 

Puiggari has treated animals from toxic algae blooms in other states, but none in Montana. He says there are a few common symptoms you need to watch out for. 

"Initial symptoms could be vomiting, they could show neurological signs, they could be staggering. That would follow with diarrhea," Puiggari said. 

Harmful blue/green algae is typically found in still, warm water with little wind. Riedl says animals and kids are most at risk. 

"When in doubt just stay out. Dogs and children are especially susceptible to those toxins," Riedl said. 

If you see any blue/green algae you are asked to report it to the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Click HERE to report and find more information. 

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