Erie County water testing finds no harmful algae toxin

Aug 8, 2014

Lake Erie water samples tested this week in Albany have come back negative in Erie County for a harmful toxin caused by blue-green algae blooms. 

Samples from local water treatments plants and beaches were sent to Albany earlier this week after algae blooms caused a disruption to the city of Toledo's water supply last weekend.

Algae testing at Erie County beaches came back negative.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says testing conducted at 12 sites in Erie, including beaches and water treatment plants, found none of the harmful toxin microcystin, which is secreted by the blue-green algae.

"The water is safe," Burstein told WBFO. "We have no concern about the safety of our drinking water and we did not find any detectable levels of that toxin."

Samples tested in Chautauqua County, however, did detect amounts of the algae, which can be harmful to the human body. Six Chautauqua County beaches were closed this week, including Bemus Point, Lakewood Village, and four beaches at the Chautauqua Institution.

Burstein says eventually, Erie County will be able to test such samples locally.

"We are currently acquiring our own capacity to do the testing in Erie County. Once we have that all set up, we will do routine testing," Burstein said.

Burstein says the health department is continually conducting surveillance to check for the toxic algae. She says results received today show the water is safe for drinking and swimming.

The toxins secreted by the blooms can cause rashes, hives, and blisters on the skin. If swallowed, they can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, stomach pain, and fever.