AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - At least two dogs have died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake. Now the City of Austin says they want the public to know they're taking necessary steps to prevent further harm and to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
"The city was first notified of a death of a dog after swimming on Lady Bird Lake on Saturday,” Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano said. "On Sunday afternoon, staff from Watershed Protection visually inspected the lake and confirmed the presence of clumps of algae."
Arrellano said that while the information is anecdotal and the city cannot independently confirm the cause or even the number of animals that have gotten sick or died, they have no reason to question the validity of the accounts.
On Wednesday at 3 p.m. the city closed Red Bud Isle until further notice. The city says 40 percent of Red Bud Isle's water surface is covered by clumps of algae. The algae are also more abundant in shorelines and areas with low water flow.
"Other environmental factors could be changing as we move along like low flow, heat, we do have the presence of zebra mussels this year," Sarah Hartley, Watershed Development with the City of Austin said. "That could be impacting. That's a possibility."
Mary Ann Rodriguez, the city's interim medical director, says no human deaths are connected to blue-green algae, but if humans come in contact with the water, there could be skin, ear, and eye irritation, fever, rash and headache symptoms. So those at Lady Bird Lake are advised to avoid ingesting lake water or coming in contact with the algae.
“Pets and animals are more adversely affected than humans because of the dose they get to ingest," Rodriguez said. "Unlike humans when pets go into the water they drink water and algae may get into their fur and lick it off. That doesn't happen in humans."
The city says they took samples from Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, and the Colorado River below Longhorn Dam.
Right now the water is being tested by the University of Texas and Texas A&M Corpus Christi and preliminary test results are expected by Friday morning and full results by Monday.
Questions should be answered, like if the algae is spreading to other bodies of water in Austin, and when is it safe for pets to go back into the water.
“We will also be distributing information to residents visitors and businesses on the lake and on our website,” Arellano said.