New batch of algae found on Lady Bird Lake shows toxins still present

The City of Austin says that new tests show toxins are still present at Lady Bird Lake.

A new batch of algae was found last week on Lady Bird Lake, says the city. Tests were run on samples taken at Red Bud Isle and show that toxins are still present in the algae.

The city is still advising pet owners to use caution and keep pets away from Lady Bird Lake and parts of Barton Creek near the lake.

“The only place really that dogs should be going in is right below the Barton Springs Pool at Barking Springs,” said Brent Bellinger, senior environmental scientist at the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department.

According to the city, the new algae looks similar to the type that produced toxins in August and was reportedly responsible for the death of five dogs. The city said they noticed the sudden increase on Tuesday.

“We noticed a kind of resurgence of the floating algae across a large portion of the upper part of the reservoir of Lady Bird Lake,” Bellinger said. 

"Although disappointing, this second wave of algae is not unexpected given the unrelenting #ATX heat, less flow through the lakes, + the natural life cycle of algae," the city tweeted last week.

Residents are also advised to avoid creeks and lakes where the water is warm and stagnant or where lots of algae is present.

The city confirmed a harmful algal bloom on the lake starting in July. Preliminary test results were released back in August, showing neurotoxins in some of the algae near Red Bud Isle, which remains closed.

Algae has also been detected in Auditorium Shores and Barking Springs. 

Watershed has an idea what contributes to the toxic algae blooms but said they plan to spend all winter coming up with preventative measures. 

“There's no reason to think it's not going to occur again in the future,” Bellinger said. 

The city said preliminary results indicated the algae is a type of blue-green algae of the genus Oscillatoria. This type can release a neurotoxin, which can be harmful to pets and people if a sufficient quantity of water or algae is ingested.

Dogs who ingest water with this toxin can have any number of symptoms, the most severe being respiratory paralysis and death. 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

The city says Austin Water does not use Lady Bird Lake as a source for drinking water and regularly checks levels on Lakes Austin and Travis.

The city is also reminding citizens that it is unlawful for humans to swim in Lady Bird Lake, but boating and paddleboating are allowed at your own risk.

The city has a page on their website about the algae.