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Whatcom County Health Department
Drinking Water Program, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (360) 676-6724
E-mail: Environmental Health


Toxic Blue Green Algae

Toxic Blue Green Algae

Blue-green algae are actually bacteria that have qualities simliar to algae and other plants. These bacteria are commonily found on land and in lakes, rivers, ponds, and in estuaries and marine water.

When algae grow to such an extent that they color the water, they are said to be blooming. If the lake looks like pea soup, it may be experiencing an algae bloom. Blooms can occur anytime, but they are more common in warmer summer and fall weather.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins at levels that are harmful to humans, pets, domestic animals, and wildlife. There is no way to detect toxins in an algae bloom except through laboratory analysis.

For more information, see the Washington State Department of Health - Blue-Green Algae website:

What if I see a bloom?

  • When in doubt, stay out!
  • Avoid all contact with water containing algae.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the water.
  • Boiling or chlorinating water will not make the water safe.

Contact the Department of Ecology Algae Control Program for more information on reporting a bloom and sampling:

Contact Information

If you have any further questions please contact us:

Whatcom County Health Department
Drinking Water Program, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (360) 676-6724