Newsroom > DHHS News Release

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

September 5, 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


Health Alert Issued for Merritt Reservoir; Alerts Continue For Pawnee, Kirkman’s Cove, and Willow Creek

The state has issued a health alert for toxic blue-green algae at Merritt Reservoir in Cherry County. Alerts also continue to be in effect at Pawnee Reservoir (Lancaster County), Kirkman's Cove Reservoir (Richardson County) and Willow Creek Reservoir (Pierce County). The alert has ended at Iron Horse Trail Lake (Pawnee County), after the lake had two consecutive weeks of low readings for toxins.

Samples taken earlier this week at the Merritt Reservoir were slightly 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, Kirkman's Cove and Willow Creek also had high toxin readings again this week. Lakes that are on health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below 20 ppb before the alert is removed.

Signs are being posted to advise the public to use caution, and the swimming beaches at the lakes will remain closed during the health alert. 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.

The state will continue to conduct weekly sampling at 47 recreational lakes through September. Sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on 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.)