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Toxic algae catches beachgoers by suprise

7:35 PM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
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PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) - Health officials are issuing a warning for people who use Lake Macatawa. Toxic blue-green algae is spreading from Dunton Park to Holland State Park. Health officials say it's been known to develop before but rarely to this extent.

Harriet Vanheest owns property near Lake Macatawa and says the water looks like pea soup.

"It would be nice to figure out what it is and how we can get rid of it," says Vanheest.

WZZM 13 brought officials from the Ottawa County Health Department to Lake Macatawa to answer questions.

"What about people actually going into the lake?" says Vanheest. "If they do go in and get it on to themselves, number one make sure they don't ingest it, because that can be harmful," says Randy Rapp, Supervisor with the Ottawa County Health Department.

Health officials say because of the summer's hot temperatures blue-green algae is lasting for months instead of days. They say it can develop in just 12 hours.

Many people along Lake Macatawa and Holland State Park were unaware. Several children were even playing in the water.

"As soon as they get out, they should wipe off with a towel and take a shower. If I were their parents, they should probably not be swimming in it," says Rapp.

"It would have been nice to know, because we would have gone to another park probably," says one mother.

WZZM 13 asked the health department about posting a warning.

"A sign that says 'beach advisory'? We could probably do that," says Rapp.

About an hour later, the health department arrived with a warning sign. Health officials say nature will eventually take care of itself with a heavy rain.

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