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Issued jointly from the
Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Public Health
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
UN-L Water Quality Extension Program

October 3, 2008

Brian McManus, Department of Environmental Quality, (402) 471-4223
Marla Augustine, HHS Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047
Dave Tunink, Game and Parks Commission, (402) 471-5553
Tadd Barrow, UN-L Water Quality Extension, (402) 472-7783


Final Health Alerts for the Season Posted at Pawnee, Willow Creek, Swan Creek Reservoirs

In the final week of sampling for 2008, state-issued health alerts for toxic blue-green algae remain in effect at Pawnee Reservoir (Lancaster County) and Willow Creek Reservoir (Pierce County), and a new alert has been issued for Swan Creek 5A Reservoir (Saline County).

Samples taken earlier this week at the swimming beaches at Swan Creek 5A and Willow Creek were above the state’s health alert threshold of 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total Microcystins (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae). Pawnee Reservoir showed readings that had dropped below the action level this week, but remains on alert. Lakes on the list must have two consecutive weeks of readings below 20 ppb before the alert is removed.

This week marks the end of the state’s weekly sampling for 2008. The state samples during the recreational season when there is greatest likelihood of extended public exposure to the lakes’ water. Testing will resume May 1, 2009. During the recreational season, when a health alert is issued, signs are posted at lakes and swimming beaches are closed. The public is advised to avoid activities that could involve accidental ingestion of water, and to make sure their pets don’t drink from the lake. People can still use the public areas for picnics and other outdoor activities.

Although the sampling for this season has ended, the state continues to advise people to look for signs of toxic algae when they visit lakes in Nebraska, and to make sure their pets do not drink from lakes that show signs of blue-green algae. Aspects to watch out for include:

  • Water that has a neon green, pea green, blue-green or reddish-brown color.
  • Foam, scum or a thick paint-like appearance on the water surface.
  • Green or blue-green streaks on the surface, or accumulations in bays and along shorelines.

Weekly sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria can be found at NDEQ’s web site,

(For more information about potential health effects of toxic blue-green algae, what to look for, and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the attached pdficon.gif (914 bytes)Fact Sheet.)