Our Land: Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms in New Mexico Lakes
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Our Land: Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms in New Mexico Lakes


>>YOU MAY HAVE HEARD TWO NEW
MEXICO LAKES WERE CLOSED LATE THIS SUMMER BECAUSE OF BLUE
GREEN ALGAE BLOOMS WHICH CAN MAKE PEOPLE AND PETS SICK. IT IS FINALLY COOLER OUTSIDE AND
AS SUMMER SWIM SEASON WRAPS UP, WE WANTED TO UNDERSTAND MORE
ABOUT THE RISKS FROM EXPOSURE TO THE BLOOMS AND WHY THIS IS
HAPPENING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SOME OF NEW MEXICO’S LAKES. IN THIS MONTHS EPISODE OF OUR
LAND CORRESPONDENT LAURA PASKUS TRAVELS TO ABIQUIU COCHITI TO
FIND OUT MORE.>>ON AUGUST 13 AS THE HIGHEST
TEMPERATURE IN ALBUQUERQUE CLIMBED ABOVE NORMAL TO 94
DEGREES, THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CLOSED ABIQUIU LAKE TO
SWIMMING AND OTHER RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES. NINE DAYS LATER IT CLOSED
COCHITI LAKE.>>BACTERIA OR WHAT WE KNOW THEM
AS, BLUE GREEN ALGAE, TECHNICALLY THEY ARE NOT ALGAE,
THEY ARE ACTUALLY A BACTERIA THAT CAN PHOTOSYNTHESIZE SO THEY
CAN HARVEST LIGHT FROM THE SUN LIKE PLANTS AND TREES AND
GRASSES AND SHRUBS. THEY LIVE IN THE WATER. GENERALLY THEY ARE MICROSCOPIC. SO WE CAN SEE THEM ON THE HEAD
OF A PIN AND THEY ARE NATURALLY IN LAKES AND RIVERS AND STREAMS
AND PONDS AS PART OF THE GREEN PART OF THE PLANT. SO CHECK IT OUT.>>ALL OF THIS IS JUST BACTERIA
THAT IS BLOOMING.>>BECKY BIXBY IS A PROFESSOR AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT. SHE IS ALSO ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
OF THE WATER RESOURCES PROGRAM AND SHE STUDIES ALGAE FOR A
LIVING.>>LOW WATER LEVELS, HIGH
TEMPERATURES AND LONG SUNNY DAYS, OF WHICH NEW MEXICO HAS
HAD PLENTY, ALL HELP TRIGGER THESE BLOOMS. RUNOFF FROM FARM FIELDS AND
RANCH LANDS ARE FACTORS TOO.>>A COMBINATION OF THESE CAN
CAUSE CERTAIN SPECIES OF BACTERIA TO GROW AND QUICKLY
MULTIPLY. THEIR CELLS FORM THESE BLOOMS IN
SLOW MOVING WATER OF LAKES AND PONDS AND THEN THE BLOOMS CAN
CREATE TOXINS.>>JOHN MUELLER IS OPERATIONS
PROJECT MANAGER AT ABIQUIU LAKE WHICH IS ON THE CHAMA RIVER.>>MOST ALGAES ARE NOT HARMFUL
BUT WHAT WE ARE SEEING UP HERE AND TESTED WITH HIGHER TOXICITY
LEVEL IS A LIME GREEN, PEA SOUP COLOR. IF YOU SEE THAT TYPE OF
FORMATION OR FILM ON THE WATER, AVOID IT, AVOID CONTACTS WITH
IT, DON’T LET YOUR PET SWIM IT IN, KEEP YOUR KIDS OUT OF IT AND
COME TELL A PARK RANGER SO WE CAN KIND OF GET AN
UNDERSTANDING, BECAUSE THIS IS A NEW AREA, AND WHAT WE NEED TO
KEY INTO’. THE BIGGEST THING IS IF YOU SEE
THAT, STAY OUT OF THE WATER.>>TOUCHING THE ALGAE CAN LEAVE
RASHERS OR BLISTERS ON YOUR SKIN. SWALLOWING IT CAN CAUSE STOMACH
PROBLEMS. BREATHING DROPLETS LIKE WHEN
WATER SKIING OR SWIMMING CAN LEAD TO HAY FEVER LIKE SYMPTOMS
AND TOXINS CAN CAUSE LIVER OR NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS.>>FOR DOGS WHO GULP LOTS OF
WATER WHEN THEY SWIM OR LICK THE ALGAE OFF THEIR COATS, EXPOSURE
CAN BE FATAL. NOT ONLY THAT, WHEN THE BLOOMS
DIE OFF AND DECAY, THEY USE UP THE OXYGEN IN THE WATER,
SOMETIMES TRIGGERING FISH KILL.>>MUELLER AND THE STATE HEALTH
OFFICIALS SAY THEY HAVEN’T HEARD REPORTS FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE
GOTTEN SICK AND MUELLER SAYS THEY ARE MONITORING WATER IN THE
LAKE AND BELOW THE DAM WHERE THERE AREN’T ANY SIGNS OF THE
ALGAE.>>WE DO NOT WANT TO NEGATIVELY
AFFECT PEOPLE COMING UP AND RECREATING AND ENJOYING THE
RESOURCE. WE’RE TRYING TO STRIKE A BALANCE
OF A GOOD RESPONSE PLAN, OUTREACH PROGRAMS, TO EDUCATE
THE PUBLIC, BUT ALSO, IF NECESSARY, PARTIAL CLOSURES. WE DON’T WANT TO DO A FULL
CLOSURE BECAUSE THAT DOES HAVE IMPACT BUT OUR MAIN GOAL IS TO
KEEP OUR VISITORS AS HEALTHY AS POSSIBLE.>>ABOVE ABIQUIU LAKE, WATER IN
THE CHAMA RIVER IS NUTRIENT RICH WITH HIGH LEVELS OF NITROGEN AND
PHOSPHORUS. BECAUSE THE RIVER MOVES
RELATIVELY FAST, THE BLOOMS AREN’T A PROBLEM THERE BUT THAT
WATER ENDS UP IN THE LAKE.>>KRISTOPHER BARRIOS IS WITH
THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT WHICH REGULATES
POLLUTION AND THESE HIGH NUTRIENT LEVELS. IT CAN COME FROM PLANT SOURCES
LIKE WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANTS. ALSO A LARGE PORTION COMES FROM
RUNOFF AND STORM EVENTS, AGRICULTURE, RUNOFF FROM GRAZED
LAND AND IRRIGATION WATER.>>IT IS NOT REALISTIC TO KILL
OFF THE BACTERIA IN LAKES AND RESERVOIRS ESPECIALLY NOT ACROSS
BIG AREAS AND THE TREATMENTS THEMSELVES COULD KILL FISH AND
HARM THE ECOSYSTEM. INSTEAD THE GOAL IS TO REDUCE
NUTRIENTS GETTING INTO THE RIVER. THAT INCLUDES WORKING WITH AG
AND LIVESTOCK COMMUNITIES TO STOP SO MUCH NITROGEN AND
PHOSPHORUS FROM FERTILIZERS AND WASTE FROM GETTING INTO STREAMS
AND RIVERS IN THE FIRST PLACE. THESE BLOOMS ARE A PROBLEM IN
THE MIDWEST, SOUTH AND EVEN SOMETIMES IN SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO
BUT WHAT WE ARE SEEING AT COCHITI AND ABIQUIU THIS YEAR IS
NEW.>>AS THE CLIMATE WARMS AND
LAKES AND RESERVOIRS KEEP DROPPING, WE ARE GOING TO SEE
MORE OF THESE BLOOMS IN NEW MEXICO. THAT MEANS FACING THE CHALLENGES
ISN’T JUST ABOUT CLOSING LAKES HERE AND THERE OR GETTING
THROUGH THIS SUMMER, THE BLOOMS ARE POINTING US TOWARDS BIGGER
ISSUES IN OUR STATE WHEN IT COMES TO WATER SUPPLIES, RISING
TEMPERATURES AND WATER MANAGEMENT.>>IT IS INTERESTING BECAUSE IT
BRINGS A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT INTERESTS TOGETHER. A LOT OF STAKEHOLDERS TOGETHER. PEOPLE WHO ARE MANAGING THE
RESERVOIRS, PEOPLE WHO ARE MANAGING DRINKING WATER, PEOPLE
WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE HEALTH. AND, SO, PULLING THESE PEOPLE
TOGETHER TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IS REALLY EXCITING. AND WE ARE A STATE WITH A LOT OF
RESERVOIRS AND WE ARE DEPENDENT ON THE RESERVOIRS FOR VARIOUS
THINGS.>>EVEN UP IN NORTHERN NEW
MEXICO WITH RELATIVE COOL SUMMERS, THIS WON’T BE THE LAST
TIME NEW MEXICANS SEE THESE BLOOMS IN LAKES. SO, IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE
MONITORING THE WATER AND COLLECTING DATA ON THE BLOOMS
AND WHY THEY ARE HAPPENING.>>SHE ALSO SAYS IT IS IMPORTANT
THAT ALL THE AGENCIES AND STAKEHOLDERS STAY AT THE TABLE
TO THINK ABOUT A STATE-WIDE PLAN, SO WE KNOW HOW TO RESPOND
TO BLOOMS AND ESPECIALLY STOP THEM BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.>>FOR NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS AND
OUR LAND, I AM LAURA PASKUS.

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