UW-Milwaukee testing Lake Winnebago to find out whether there are toxins in drinking water

  • Updated: August 12, 2013 - 7:10 AM

FOND DU LAC, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is testing the water quality of Lake Winnebago to find out whether blue-green algae produce toxins in drinking water.

The state's largest inland lake provides water for more than 200,000 people in Oshkosh, Appleton, Neenah and Menasha. It's the only inland lake used for drinking water in the state.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is also warning swimmers and boaters to watch out for blue-green algae blooms, according to the Reporter Media (http://fondul.ac/19nd5e4 ).

Bloom reports typically spike in August because the water warms up and conditions are conducive for algae growth, according to the agency. Some algae species produce toxins that can cause ailments including stomach aches, flu-like symptoms, rashes and hives.

Experts say if people wade in up to their knees and can't see their feet they should get out of the water. People also should wash off after swimming in any lake or pond and rinse their pets off to prevent them from ingesting any blue-green algae on their fur.

The research is being funded by a $750,000 grant from the National Institution of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

UW-Milwaukee is using homemade buoys equipped with sensors that measure physical variables in the lake, like water and air temperature, and blue and green algae pigments levels.

The project is also sampling water at each of the four cities' water plants.

Residents in another area city, Fond du Lac, aren't affected because they get drinking water from wells, according to Kathy Scharf, water operations manager for the City of Fond du Lac Water Utility.

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