Summer safety: Check lakes and rivers for toxic algae

Summer safety: Check lakes and rivers for toxic algae

LANE COUNTY, Ore.--Before you hit your favorite swimming hole or fishing spot this summer, check to make sure it's safe to swim.

Blue-green algae blooms in bodies of water around Oregon every summer, leading the state to issue health advisories warning people to stay out of the water. 

The algae can produce harmful toxins that can make people and animals sick, even causing deaths. 

Dogs died after drinking the toxins in Elk Creek near the Umpqua River last summer.

So far, the Department of Human Services Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance Program has issued just two warnings this year, for Willow Lake and Lost Creek Lake in Southern Oregon. 

"I think because we've had such a cool, wet spring it's probably delayed the onset," said Al Johnson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service. 

In 2009, 21 advisories were issued.  In 2008, 14 advisories were issued.

Warnings are posted when a bloom is found, but not all bodies of water in Oregon are monitored regularly.

Instead, state and federal agencies focus on developed recreational spots.

So if your fishing hole or swimming spot is off the beaten path, inspect the water before you get in.

If it's scummy, is blue-green, peasoup green, yellowish or brown in color, there's likely an algae bloom.