MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) – Hot weather and the COVID-19 pandemic are driving many people outdoors and onto the water, but harmful algae blooms could be waiting in area lakes.
Jenna Heim and her family have been coming out to Dane County’s lakes every week.
“I’m not working right now, so we’ve been coming out pretty often, probably three or four times a week…boating, tubing, swimming,” said Heim, who lives in Madison.
Heim has seen the algae problem firsthand.
“We do notice the algae on the trailer and the boat when we’re coming off the water,” she said, adding that she usually has to rinse the boat off.
Too much algae can even close local beaches.
“[It] can just make it generally yucky and smelly, you don’t want to boat there, you don’t want to swim there,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
Most algae is harmless, but certain blooms, especially blue-green algae, can be toxic – especially to pets.
“It’s more concerning because I feel like I can’t bring my dog out,” Heim explained.
This summer, Dane County is bringing in a new tool to fight it, designed by its engineers.
At first glance, it looks like a normal boat, but it is fitted with attachments to vacuum up lake water filled with algae and weeds. Bags on the boat trap the algae and filter the clean water back into the lake.
“The stuff that ends up in the bags will end up being landfilled,” Parisi explained.
The county is testing out the new system on most area lakes to improve water quality for swimmers and boaters.
“People are looking for somewhere to get out where it’s outside and where it’s safe,” Parisi said, adding, “We really want to focus on making our beautiful lakes accessible.”
Dane County also expanded another lake cleanup effort, its Blue Water Barge program, to Lake Waubesa. The program removes aquatic plants and debris from piers, storm water outlets and beaches.
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