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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

September 17, 2010

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, Kirkman’s Cove, Alerts Continue for Swan Creek 5A; Willow Creek Lake, Red Willow Reservoir

The state has issued a health alert for toxic blue-green algae at Merritt Reservoir in Cherry County and Kirkman’s Cove near Humboldt. Alerts continue for Swan Creek Lake 5A near Tobias, Willow Creek Lake near Pierce and Red Willow Reservoir near McCook.

Samples taken earlier this week at Merritt, Kirkman’s Cove 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). Although levels were below the threshold at Swan Creek 5A and Red Willow Reservoir this week, they will continue to be on alert due to high readings from samples taken at the two lakes the previous week. Lakes that are on health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the alert is discontinued.

When a health alert is issued, signs are posted to advise the public to use caution, and designated swimming beaches are closed during the alert. Recreational boating and fishing are permitted, but the public is advised to avoid activities that could involve accidental ingestion of water and to avoid full immersion in water. People can still use the public areas for camping, picnics and other outdoor activities.

The state will continue to conduct weekly sampling at 46 recreational lakes through the recreational season. 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.)