City says preliminary results show no toxins in water at Lady Bird Lake; Red Bud Isle remains closed

The City of Austin announced Friday that preliminary results found low levels of a neurotoxin in two algae samples taken from near Red Bud Isle, but the toxin was not found in any water samples or other algae samples.

Samples show much of the algae in other parts of the lake are harmless varieties, the city says.

Samples were taken from eight locations on the lake, and additional samples were taken at the Walsh Boat Ramp on Lake Austin and downstream of Longhorn Dam. Additional samples were taken Friday at the mouth of Barton Creek to identify the algae there.

The toxin appears to be localized to the algae near Red Bud Isle so the city says the area remains closed and signs were posted Sunday evening to warn pet owners.

However, the city is warning people to continue minimizing their exposure to the water and avoiding contact with algae as well as keeping pets out of the lake as algae can move and there may be potentially harmful algae in other parts of the lake.

The city says Watershed Protection staff are working on a testing protocol to monitor algal toxicity on the lake, in addition to the pollutant, water chemistry and water quality tests they already perform.

Dogs who ingest water with this toxin can have any number of symptoms, the most severe being respiratory paralysis and death. The amount of toxin the dog ingests and licking of the fur are factors. Some signs to look for within minutes of exposure include:

  • Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Jaundice, hepatomegaly
  • Blood in urine or dark urine
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Photosensitization in recovering animals
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Progression of muscle twitches
  • Respiratory paralysis

Some possible health effects in people include:

  • Rashes, skin irritation, swelling or sores
  • Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms
  • Respiratory signs or symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headache and neurologic signs or symptoms
  • Ear symptoms
  • Eye irritation

The city recommends people and dogs rinse off if they come into contact with the water and if symptoms occur, to seek medical attention. Austin Public Health has not seen any increases in unusual conditions that may be related to exposure to the water.

The city says Austin Water does not use Lady Bird Lake as a source for drinking water and that they regularly check algae levels on Lake Austin and Lake Travis. Austin Water has not seen levels of concern for drinking water.

Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to call 311 or 512-974-2000, or visit the City's website for more information and updates.