This morning, Seattle City Councilmembers Jean Godden and Mike O’Brien announced they have garnered enough money in the city’s
budget for address Green Lake’s toxic algae problem a full year sooner than expected.
For the last 3 years, Green Lake has been closed for several weeks, usually in late summer and early fall, due to high levels toxic blue green algae can cause life-threatening health problems in both people and dogs.
This year the algae first appeared in Green Lake last August, and it has been closed to people and pets since the middle of September.
“Green Lake is one of Seattle’s most precious gems and deserves our stewardship,” said Councilmember Godden. “I am happy to have partnered with Green Lake neighbors and my colleagues to accelerate the cleanup.”
The Council’s Budget Committee voted unanimously to allocate $1.5 million in the city’s 2016 Capitol Improvement budget to pay for treating Green Lake with alum, a common chemical used to inhibit the growth of toxic algae. The money was generated by Seattle’s Real Estate Excise Tax.
Councilor Godden said they were able to allocate $300,000 of the money to the 2015 city budget so Department of Parks and Recreation will be able to move forward with necessary water quality testing and permitting from the Department of Ecology over 2015, which is required before treatment can begin.
If all goes according to plan the alum will be applied to Green Lake in the spring of 2016. People and pets will be prohibited from going in the lake for about a month afterwards.
The blue-green algae present in Green Lake throughout the year becomes toxic when warm weather and more activity in the lake stir up phosphorus sediments from the bottom of the lake and other nutrients that the algae feed on.
In these seasonal conditions, the algae blooms grow and become toxic to people and pets who swim in the lake. Treating the lake with alum will inactivate the phosphorous, taking away the algae’s primary food source. Councilmember O’Brien said most of the phosphorous comes from runoff that contains fertilizer people use on their lawns.
The alum should keep toxic algae at safe levels for about 6-7 years.
I’ve alerted Seattle dog owners about toxic algae formation in Green Lake for the last couple of years because exposure to it, even in small amounts, can cause severe liver and neurologic toxicity in dogs. A dog exposed to toxic algae can also contract respiratory paralysis which can kill it within 30 minutes from the start of these symptoms: tremors, weakness, drooling, paralysis, muscle rigidity, involuntary urination and defecation, and seizures.
Councilmember Godden said she decided to work on getting toxic algae out of Green Lake last August when she got numerous emails from local residents after the toxic algae began to form.
“Green Lake is one of Seattle’s most precious gems and deserves our stewardship,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “I am happy to have partnered with Green Lake neighbors and my colleagues to accelerate the cleanup.”
She added that the emails helped her convince her colleagues to support her request for money the clean up.
This won’t be the first time Green Lake will be treated with alum to address its toxic algae problem. Most recently, alum was used twice – once in the late 1980’s and again early 1990’s.
Councilmember O’Brien noted that in the future, phosphorous levels in Green Lake should be monitored more closely “to ensure we can stop it proactively.”
Thanks to Councilmembers Godden and O’Brien for taking aggressive steps to ensure Green Lake will be safe for people and dogs year round.