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Algae Watch at Fern Ridge

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LANE COUNTY, Ore. — If swimmers head out to Fern Ridge Reservoir, they might notice some caution signs for toxic algae — but the county says it is still safe to swim.

Lane County Parks say the signs are just warnings and that there is no health advisory. The county says it is perfectly safe to swim in the lake, but it is important that swimmers keep their eyes out just in case there are algae blooms later in the summer.

With temperatures soaring into the 90s this week, one woman decided to take her kids to the lake.

“I have three kids with me,” said Eugene resident Suzanna Fitch. “Monday I decided that it’d be nice to go down to the reservoir.”

Before she went, she spent time researching to see if there were any health advisories but did not see anything on the county’s website.

“We actually almost got into the water before I noticed the small cluster of signs, and I’m like, let’s go look at that,” she said.

She saw small caution signs, warning swimmers that there could be toxic algae in the water.

“I was just frustrated,” she said. “I had spent so much time researching, trying to find out. I didn’t know if that meant at this time you shouldn’t be swimming or you should just be aware if issues occur that you’re not supposed to be in the water.”

But the county says it is not dangerous to swim in the lake.

“There’s no problem right now,” said Lane County spokesperson Anne Marie Levis. “People can still swim, but if you do see an algae bloom or anything, don’t swim in that.”

The county says it has done recent testing and has not found any toxic algae.

“It’s that balance between providing information and scaring people about something,” Levis said. “It really was just something that we’re trying to give information. If you see something, don’t swim in it – but it’s fine.”

But the county says almost every summer, it does eventually see the algae, and simply wants to warn people to be on alert.

“I’d come out and look,” said Junction City resident Vanessa Brown. “But if it’s not here, I’m still going to bring the dogs here! They want to have fun. We want to have fun.”

So what should swimmers look for? The county says the toxic algae might be in green globs on the surface of the water. Swimmers should also look out for any thick, brightly colored foam.

The county says if there is toxic algae in the water later this summer, it will post a health advisory online and also at the lake.

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