Dog Death Caps Summer of Blue-Green Algae in MN

Blue-green algae blooms on Minnesota lakes are linked to a dog death and illnesses, and apparently caused by runoff pollution.


The death of a dog after it frolicked in a Minnesota lake plagued with blue-green algae was a sad coda for a late summer in the state. Although no necropsy was done, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said  “the circumstances and manner of death were consistent with exposure to algal toxins.” He added that the MPCA had received reports of several other sick dogs likely exposed to the algae.

Compounding the sadness, the dog that died after exposure in Fox Lake, a black Lab named Sady, was a wedding gift to the dog’s owners from a friend and soldier killed in Iraq.

Each year, MPCA issues a summer alert about blue-green algae blooms in lakes, chiefly in the southern and southwestern portions of the state. They’re often received and filed without much attention. This year, blooms almost escaped attention because of a cool early summer.  But recent warm, dry weather spawned a September bloom. Although human deaths are extremely rare from exposure to blue-green algae, but it can cause skin irritation and nausea. Young children are more susceptible than adults.

MPCA observes, “There is no single factor that causes an algae bloom. A combination of factors such as excessive nutrients, warm temperatures, and lots of sunlight all encourage the growth of blue-green algae. A primary cause, excess nutrients (e.g. phosphorus), is largely due to nonpoint source runoff from agricultural lands (e.g., row crops), urban areas (e.g. streets, parking lots, lawns, etc.), and point sources, such as wastewater treatment facilities.”

This week, the MPCA also proposed adding about 400 lakes and river segments to the state’s list of impaired waters, bringing the total to 3,049.  About $100 million of new money per year from the state’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, approved by Minnesota voters in November 2008, is dedicated to cleaning up all impaired waters over the next 25 years.

Photo credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

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