After three dogs in North Carolina died from ingesting water infected with blue-green algae and sparked fears among pet owners across the nation, officials in The Woodlands are working to dispel an unsubstantiated rumor that the toxic substance may be in the waters of ponds and lakes in the township.
Chris Nunes, director of Parks and Recreation for The Woodlands, said that no blue-green algae has been discovered in any ponds, lakes or other bodies of water in The Woodlands. The rumor that was posted on the Facebook page devoted to visitors to area dog parks was not accurate, he added.
“I have been investigating those claims…we saw them on a dog park Facebook page,” Nunes said on Wednesday, referencing the comments by an unidentified individual alleging area waters may contain blue-green algae. “There have been no reports to my knowledge of dogs being sickened.”
The fears of blue-green algae have spread across the nation, and dozens of incidents have been reported by television new outlets, websites and other news organizations from coast to coast, detailing dogs getting sick or dying from swimming in tainted waters.
In a previous Houston Chronicle article, the algae was described in depth. The article states it can occur naturally in water, but the blue-green variety are considered harmful algal blooms. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are “primitive,” photosynthetic organisms that can feed off the sun to make their own energy and release oxygen and possibly toxins in the process, said David G. Schmale III, a professor at Virginia Tech.
According to the article, the algae can grow in decorative ponds, backyard pools, lakes or natural bodies of water. Toxic algae often stink, sometimes producing a downright nauseating smell, yet animals may be attracted to the smell and taste of them, according to the EPA. Toxic algae can look like foam, scum or mats on the surface of water, said Schmale. Harmful algae blooms, which can be blue, vibrant green, brown or red, are sometimes mistaken for paint floating on the water, the article explains.
Recently, the blue-green algae was spotted in Lady Bird lake in Austin, prompting city officials to close the lake and issue warnings to residents.
Nunes said the township uses an independent contracting firm called Lake Pro, which specializes in water quality testing as well as efforts to treat area ponds, lakes and other bodies of water for excessive underwater weed growth as well as various algaes, including the blue-green algae.
“Can blue-green algae exist in Texas? Yes it can. But, we monitor the (ponds and lakes) water quality weekly. Treatments are done weekly to control weed growth and algae growth,” Nunes added. “We do the best we can with proactive, preventative maintenance. That does not mean (blue-green algae) cannot form, but we are very proactive in treating the ponds for algae and weeds.”
Nunes said in his many years working in the township, there has only been one instance he can recall of minor levels of the blue-green algae being discovered, in 2012.
“We’ve had only one incident of blue-green algae, that was in Lake Woodlands during a very prolonged drought,” he noted. “Our water testing and maintenance is done by a contractor with extensive expertise in water quality issues.”