Blue-green algae discovered in area lakes

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Pictured is a sampling of blue-green algae as seen in July on Six Mile Lake in Antrim and Charlevoix counties.


REGION – Think of the term "blue-green algae," a term most have only become familiar with in the last decade or so, and chances are that visions come to mind of the western basin of Lake Erie or possibly the situation in the City of Toledo, Ohio, a few years ago, when the city was forced to install special filters to keep the potentially harmful bacteria out of its municipal water system.

Most don't think of the term in relation to the clear and picturesque waters of the lakes in Antrim and Kalkaska counties.

But we should, especially knowing that in recent years the potentially toxic algae has been identified in Kalkaska's Little Blue and Blue Lake, and this past July in Antrim and Charlevoix counties’ Six Mile Lake.

In Little Blue Lake, a situation arose in 2018 when a dog was thought to have been affected adversely after swimming in the lake. The Michigan DEQ tested two different sites at Little Blue Lake for the presence of the algae (called cyanobacteria in scientific terms), and one site at Blue Lake, but by the time the waters of those lakes were tested, the algae had apparently dissipated as it will do when water temperatures cool and water flow increases.

In Six Mile Lake, a large, lake-wide bloom of blue-green algae was identified in July by BreAnne Grabill, the manager of Northern Regional Lakes for PLM Lake and Water Management, which has been handling Eurasian milfoil eradication and control on the lake for the past six years.

"It was a large bloom," Grabill said earlier this week. "One of the largest blooms I've ever seen in northern Michigan."

The alga was present on the lake for approximately two weeks, she said.

The appearance of the algae, the first that Grabill had seen on Six Mile Lake, was also the first "lake-wide" bloom the scientist had ever seen, she said.

Grabill reported the presence of cyanobacteria to Alexandra Rafalski, a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in Lansing. However, when contacted, Rafalski said, "At the time I spoke with PLM, the bloom was not present, so it could not be tested."

Both Grabill and Rafalski recommended that anyone spotting what they believe may be blue-green algae – on the two lakes mentioned or any other body of water in the area – to contact the Michigan DEQ, which this year took on the name of EGLE.

"We encourage reporting of blooms," Rafalsi said. "When submitting reports of suspicious algae, it is extremely helpful to send along pictures to give as much information as possible."

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