The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering stories that involve public health issues and will continue to follow the water testing at Buck Creek State Park.
Small amounts of toxins found in Clarence J. Brown Reservoir have prompted testing and a sign that cautions swimmers to be aware, but the levels aren’t enough to issue a public health advisory, state officials said.
Tests revealed small amounts of blue-green algae in the water at Buck Creek State Park, which attracts about 380,000 people annually for boating, swimming, fishing and camping.
A larger algae outbreak in recent years overtook Grand Lake St. Marys, killing fish and wildlife.
Further tests were conducted at C.J. Brown on Wednesday and should continue weekly, according to Jean Backs from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation. Wednesday’s results were not available yet.
The tests have indicated that “a low level of toxins were found,” said Backs. “We are keeping an eye on the toxins.”
The amount of toxins were not enough to warrant a public health advisory, Backs said.
A sign placed in front of the beach warns swimmers not to swallow the water and and informs them how to identify the algae.
The ancient organism has been around for years, but recreation at Grand Lake St. Marys, the largest inland lake in Ohio, came to a halt after high levels of microcystin took over.
Signs then warned visitors that direct contact with the lake should be avoided and recreational boating was only permitted when water was tested to be at a certain level.
Blue-green algae is a cyanobacteria that is caused by environmental factors such as agricultural runoff. In very large quantities, it can be harmful to life, causes scum on the water’s surface and spreads rapidly.
Skin rashes, eye irritation, and gastrointestinal problems can occur when exposed to it. Microcystin, a liver toxin produced during algae blooms, can also contribute to tumor growth. However, human related health effects in the United States are rare.
“There are no reported problems with human health effects of blue-green algae toxins in the United States at this time,” according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ website, and no human deaths have been reported.
According to Backs, nothing can really be done to solve the problem of algae blooms because the issue has evolved over time.
“I try not to think about what’s in the water,” said Lisa Holmes this week.
Others take caution before swimming by checking the lake.
“I look at the water before my son gets in,” said James Fraley, “if it got on the beach, I wouldn’t even come here anymore.”
Backs suggests that before going to the beach, people check for advisories by visiting the park website or calling the park office. When arriving, check the water and when finished, swimmers should rinse when getting out.
C.J. Brown Reservoir is just one of many attractions at Buck Creek State Park and, according to Backs, if the problem worsens, visitors will still come back for other recreational activities.
“The park has a lot to offer,” said Backs.
The park also offers camping, hiking, trails, picnicking, and cottages.
On the weekend, “you can see hundreds of cars from outside of Clark County,” said Chris Schutte of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
According to Schutte, the tourism economy is not nearly as focused on the reservoir and, for now, the algae is not a huge concern.
“I don’t think it will negatively impact us,” said Schutte.