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Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard County’s Centennial Lake closed because of harmful algae

Centennial Lake in Ellicott City is currently closed to the public and pets due to the detection of a blue-green algae bloom found in the water, according to Howard County Recreation and Parks.

Howard County Government posted the announcement on its Facebook page Monday.

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“Centennial Park in Ellicott City remains open to the public, [but] access to Centennial Lake is currently prohibited due to the detection of a blue-green algae bloom,” the Facebook posts states. “Boating, fishing and all other permitted uses of the lake are suspended until further notice.

“Park patrons, including their children and pets, should avoid contacting or consuming water from Centennial Lake,” the post states.

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Anna Hunter, superintendent of marketing and public information for Howard County Recreation and Parks, stated in an email that the blue-green algae bloom was first detected in the lake the afternoon of July 22.

The department’s Facebook page then announced that the lake was closed. No details on the cause of the closing were stated at that time.

“We thought it most important to announce the closure of the lake as quickly as possible out of precaution while we confirmed the data,” Hunter stated. “The Facebook page is not monitored on the weekends. A post with more information was made on Monday, by both the county Facebook page, and then we shared the updated information on the Rec & Parks Facebook page.”

Meanwhile, it’s unclear when the lake will be reopened to visitors.

“Howard County is being assisted with sampling by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and will rely on the results of water sampling by the state to determine when it will be safe to resume permitted uses of the lake, such as boating and fishing.

“The state is sampling again,” Hunter stated. “They are testing to see which blue-green algae species are present. Based on the species identified, further testing may be necessary to measure levels of toxins in the lake. Testing will continue until safe levels are observed.”

After a “good” rain the algae is usually washed away, she stated.

Hunter stated that there have been no reports of people or pets getting sick from the algae.

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“Anybody who believes they or their pets have become sick from contacting or ingesting lake water, they should contact their health care provider,” she stated.

Finally, Centennial Lake is the only lake Hunter’s department is responsible for. The department does monitor the county’s three ponds — Warfields Pond, Sewells Orchard and Font Hill.

Hunter also stated that her department notified the Howard County Health Department, Risk Management, Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources of the algae problem in the lake.

Recreation and Parks is working with the state to collect water samples to determine the presence of and identify the species of algae present in Centennial Lake.

Algae’s impact

Harmful algae and cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, can produce toxins that can make people and animals sick and affect the environment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Symptoms in people can include:

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  • Stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Headache, fever, tiredness or other general symptom.
  • Skin, eye, nose or throat irritation.
  • Neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness or dizziness.

Blue-green algae is plantlike organisms that live in water. It can quickly grow out of control, or “bloom.” Blooms sometimes look like foam, scum, mats, or paint on the surface of the water. They can even make the water appear different colors, including green, blue, red, or brown, the CDC website states.

Centennial Lake

Centennial Lake is a human-made 54-acre reservoir located in the 337-acre Centennial Park, located off Clarksville Pike in Ellicott City.

The lake is stocked by the State Department of Fisheries and the park is home to a variety of wildlife such as white-tailed deer, beavers, foxes, turtles, herons and other bird species, the Visit Howard County website states.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Centennial Lake is typically clear, but can become murky following storm events. Algae blooms are common as a result of increased nutrient loads from storm related runoff and during the fall as aquatic vegetation die back.

For additional guidance, visit the Howard County Health Department, at www.howardcountymd.gov/health/community-hygiene-program.

For questions about the closure of Centennial Lake, contact Howard County Recreation & Parks at 410-313-4700 or check out its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hocorec.


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