Lake changes color due to toxic algae


  • Pyramid Lake’s unusual shade of turquoise water is due to toxic algae.
  • Residents and their pets are urged not to go near the lake’s shores and get in contact with the water to avoid skin rashes and eye irritation or diarrhea and vomiting.
  • The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe says that toxic bloom usually occurs every seven to 12 years.

If there is a pink lake in Australia, there’s a turquoise blue lake in Nevada!

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyramid Lake has been closed to the public.  This has made the lake’s water bluer but this one is an unusual shade of turquoise due to a toxic bloom.   

Photo Credit: Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe

Located in the remote area of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribes’ reservation and 40 miles northeast of Reno, Pyramid Lake showed an unusual shade of blue from satellite images of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).  JPSS tweeted, “Experts say the color is due to an abundance of calcium carbonate in the water, which is rare but not dangerous to the lake’s aquatic life.”

From a water sample, the cyanotoxin levels cause harm to humans and pets according to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. They also said that this happens every seven to 12 years and is called “whiting”.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) notes that, “Algae associated with late summer blooms have been proposed as nucleation substrates that trigger whiting events, along with increased calcium concentrations and higher water temperatures.”

For now, activities around the lake are prohibited and its beaches closed until further notice because it is toxic.  Underwater species are safe, though.

But what lake experts say is that what is happening is even rarer since the calcium levels are higher and it combined with the hot, summer temperatures.

Pyramid Lake Fisheries Director Daniel Mosley told FOX11 that “When the algae breaks down and decomposes, it grabs some of the nutrients and pollutants along with the algae on its way down to the bottom of the lake. It helps improve water quality and release nitrogen.” 

But for lake residents, exposure to the algae can cause eye irritation, skin rashes, diarrhea, and vomiting.  Animals that will have direct contact with the scum in the lake water can die or suffer convulsions.

For now, residents and their pets are strongly advised to stay out of Pyramid Lake’s water.

Source: New York Post

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