Lake Allatoona does not contain harmful levels of toxic algae, water quality tests last week have confirmed, following the death of a Marietta couple’s dog last Saturday from suspected toxic algae poisoning.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division tested water samples taken from Lake Allatoona last Monday, which showed “levels of toxic blue-green algae are within the safe range,” communications director Kevin Chambers said.
He did not supply the MDJ with the test results, as requested, or explain what a “safe range” of toxic algae is, but said the agency recommends people and pets avoid going into lakes or ponds that appear bright green or the color of pea soup.
“EPD suspects an algae bloom may have occurred this past weekend and that the samples were collected after the bloom began to dissipate,” Chambers told the MDJ last Wednesday.
He says the EPD does not plan to do any additional testing at Lake Allatoona in relation to fears the water there might be harmful to people or their pets, but the agency will continue its regular monitoring of water quality at the reservoir.
Meanwhile the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, which sources drinking water from Lake Allatoona among other reservoirs, was planning more tests Friday.
Operations director Cole Blackwell says the authority would specifically test for blue-green algae in Lake Allatoona Friday, as well as manganese, total organic carbon, chlorophyll a, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity and coliform.
Results for most compounds will be available immediately after the testing, while manganese, total organic carbon and coliform results should be known Monday, Blackwell said.
The authority was advised of the EPD’s test results from the Red Top Mountain area of Lake Allatoona, where Marietta couple Morgan and Patrick Fleming say they swam and played with their pet border collie Arya on Aug. 10 before she suddenly died.
A public Facebook post by the couple on Aug. 10, just hours after Arya had died from suspected toxic algae poisoning, went viral on social media and sparked fresh fears about the safety of local swimming spots.
The post, including photographs of the couple with Arya at Lake Allatoona, has been shared over 280,000 times and attracted almost as many comments.
The Flemings say their dog started making “weird noises” on the drive home from the lake then vomited and defecated in the car before they arrived at a veterinarian’s emergency room, where they learned she was already brain dead.
“Today was absolutely awful,” the Flemings’ post said. “We lost our fun, loving and crazy girl to what we can only assume was a lake toxin such as blue-green algae.”
Several cases of pet dogs dying from suspected toxic algae poisoning have been reported throughout the Southeast in the past week.
Three dogs reportedly died after swimming in a Wilmington pond in North Carolina, the city of Austin in Texas closed Red Bud Isle as a precaution after reports three dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake, and testing revealed blue-green algae found in Lake Olmstead near Augusta contained four types of dangerous bacteria.
The advice to people from several environmental and health organizations, including the EPD and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to avoid water that is scummy or smells bad and contains algae or dead fish.
Toxic algae blooms in slow-moving water exposed to sunlight and nutrient sources, and blooms are more common this time of year when temperatures are hottest.
Blue-green algae is a common name for cyanobacteria, which get energy through photosynthesis and produce toxins that can be harmful to people and animals.
Lake Allatoona is tested monthly by the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, which supplies wholesale drinking water to 11 retailers including Cobb County and the cities of Marietta, Austell, Powder Springs and Smyrna.
It also constantly tests the quality of drinking water as it is drawn from Lake Allatoona, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and covers parts of the Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb counties.
The Corps of Engineers had not responded to a request for comment by press time.