Lake Chabot algae kills three dogs

Three dogs have died after they were exposed to Blue-Green Algae blooms at Lake Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley that may be linked to the drought, a spokeswoman said Monday.

One dog that visited the park on Wednesday afternoon died later that night and two other dogs died in December, East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said. The deaths are the first linked to the toxic algae in the park district’s 80-year history, she said.

The algae blooms are a “natural phenomenon” that has been present at the park since September, leading park district officials to post about a dozen signs around the site, Jones said. Additional signs have been added since the deaths and park staff members are giving verbal warnings to visitors, she said.

Staff also patrolled the lake over the busy weekend when the warm weather inclined more people to visit, Jones said. As of today, there have been no reports of other animals or people becoming sick from the algae, according to Jones.

The algae is present at most lakes and can bloom with the help of low water levels, little water circulation and a rise in temperature and light, park district officials said. Rain and cold temperatures allow for the blooming process to speed up, according to the park district. The algae usually blooms during the late summer and early fall, park district officials said.

Toxins are released once the algae blooms and anyone who makes contact with it may suffer from rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions and gastrointestinal problems, according to officials with the state Department of Public Health. If someone is exposed to a high amount of the toxic algae, it can result in serious illness or death, state public health officials said.

Two other algae blooms took place last year at Lake Temescal in Oakland, where park district officials used organic chemical Pak 27 to control the algae. The chemical cannot be used at Lake Chabot because of its large size of 315 acres, according to the park district. Swimming and any physical contact is not allowed at the lake, park district officials said.

The lake water serves as an emergency water source under the purview of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Jones said. Fishing is allowed on the lake and any fish caught from the lake can be consumed after it is gutted, removed of its liver and washed with tap water, park district officials said.

Anyone who believes they have made contact with the algae is advised to rinse with fresh water as soon as possible, park district officials said.

Dog owners should keep an eye out for foam, scum or mats that their animals may drink or swim in, park district officials said. Anyone who believes they were exposed to the toxic algae should seek medical attention immediately.