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Algae on the lakeshore: Is it dangerous, or just gross?

"A lot of what we're seeing now is vegetation that's floating, which is different than an actual algal or algae bloom," said Matthew Allen.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Have you noticed that the slimy, green, goop is again popping up along the lakeshore? That's right, algae.

A 13 ON YOUR SIDE viewer reached out to ask if it was dangerous, so we went to find answers.

"What we're seeing is not the harmful algal bloom that produces the Cyanotoxins," said Ottawa County Environmental Health Supervisor Matthew Allen. 

"But it still isn't the cleanest thing to be swimming in and climbing around in."

Allen explained that most of what is popping up around the lakeshore is vegetation, more specifically, a plant called duckweed. That's the small green bean-like plants that float on the water's surface. 

"A lot of this is tied to heavy rain events and precipitation," Allen said, "which is what we experienced last week."

Allen explained that the drought was causing stagnant water, which allows for a lot of build-up of contaminates from things like farms, homes, and even wild animals. 

"And then when we got all that precipitation, it just washed it all in," he said.

"So a lot of what we're seeing now is vegetation that's floating, which is different than an actual algal or algae bloom."

So the simple answer is no. That slimy green layer you might see is not dangerous, but Allen still reminds us that there are some toxins we can't even see. 

Allen explained that in any natural body of water there are microorganisms, regardless of how clear or how clean the water may look so it's important to take some precautions.

"Wash your hands when you get out, before you eat or drink anything," Allen said, "and don't feed the seagulls, because they do contribute a lot to some of the E. coli load on the beach."

Allen also reminded parents to make sure young children or those who are not potty-trained wear a swim diaper when going in the water. 

Ottawa County samples water once a week at five Lake Michigan beaches across the area. This is to monitor any presence of E. coli or other harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water. The results are then posted online for the public to see. 

You can find that data by clicking here

And click here to learn more about the water testing process, what the results mean, and other tips for avoiding illness. 

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