HELENA — State officials are issuing a reminder as more and more people hit the water to cool off this summer.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) are reminding people to be on the lookout for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).
HABs are caused by blue-green algae that are native to Montana’s freshwater lakes and reservoirs, and capable of producing toxins that damage skin, liver and nerve cells.
“They can make humans sick, animals sick, and have even been known to kill animals,” said DEQ Water Quality Specialist Hannah Riedl.
Not all varieties of blue-green algae are harmful, but some can produce dangerous cyanotoxins.
People should keep an extra eye on children and pets. Riedl says she regularly receives reports of dogs getting sick or even dying from swimming in harmful water.
Blue-green algae blooms may look like pea soup, grass clippings or green latex paint. There were more than a dozen algal bloom advisories across the state as of Aug. 11.
The state has an interactive map that allows people to see where HAB advisories are, or submit a report of a potential HAB they found.
Riedl advises people to always error on the side of caution and report any potential harmful blooms they find.
“If people are out recreating and they’re not sure I recommend they just air on the safe side and completely avoid coming into contact with that water,” Riedl said. “Grab a photo and when they’re back in cell service submit that to the HAB program.”
Click here to learn how to report a suspected HAB or call 1-888-849-2938.