Water monitoring confirms that harmful algae toxins are below guidelines for human exposure.

HOLLY M. GILL - The health advisory regarding harmful algae blooms at Lake Billy Chinook has been lifted. The Oregon Health Authority lifted the advisory on July 19, after water monitoring showed that the levels of harmful algae toxins in the water are within recreational guidelines.The Oregon Health Authority has lifted the recreational use health advisory issued for Lake Billy Chinook, located about 12 miles west of Madras.

The advisory, which was first issued June 22, for the Metolius arm, and then expanded on July 11, to include the Deschutes and Crooked River arms, was lifted Thursday, July 19.

Water monitoring has confirmed that the level of cyanotoxins (harmful algae toxins) in the reservoir are below recreational guideline values for human exposure. However, Oregon health officials advise recreational visitors to always be alert to signs of cyanobacterial (harmful algae) blooms in all Oregon waters, because blooms can develop and disappear throughout the season.

Only a fraction of the many lakes and waterways in Oregon are monitored for cyanobacteria by state, federal and local agencies, therefore, you are your own best advocate when it comes to keeping you and your family safe while recreating.

People and especially small children and pets should avoid recreating in areas where the water is foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish red in color, if a thick mat of blue-green algae is visible in the water, or bright green cells are suspended in the water column.

If you observe those signs in the water, you are encouraged to avoid activities that cause you to swallow water or inhale droplets, such as swimming or high-speed water activities.

It's possible cyanotoxins can still exist in clear water. Sometimes, cyanobacteria can move into another area, making water that once looked foamy, scummy or discolored look clear. However, when a bloom dies elsewhere in the water body, it can release toxins that may reach into the clear water.

There also are species of cyanobacteria that anchor themselves at the bottom of a water body, live in the sediment, or can grow on aquatic plants and release toxins into clear water near the surface. OHA relies on laboratory tests of water samples to determine when cyanotoxins are no longer present to lift health advisories.

For recreational health information, to report human or pet illnesses due to blooms or cyanotoxins in recreational waters, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0440. For information about recreational advisories issued or lifted for the season, contact the Oregon Public Health toll-free information line at 1-877-290-6767 or visit the harmful algae bloom website and select "Algae Bloom Advisories."

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