Reporting a Harmful Algal Bloom

Do you suspect a blue-green algae bloom in your lake or in a public lake you've visited?

If yes,

  1. Fill out a bloomWatch app report on your smartphone. See the bloomWatch quick Start Guide for instructions.

    Algal Bloom App
    For more information: https://cyanos.org/bloomwatch/#bloomwatch_how
    OR
  2. Fill out a Bloom Report Form. (Google Chrome users: You may need to download the form first before opening it. Right-click the link and select "Save link as..." from the menu.)
    • Fill out as much of the form as possible.
    • Take two photographs of the bloom. One photo should be a close-up of the algal bloom or scum and the other photo should include the surrounding landscape to help identify the location of the bloom or scum on the lake.
    • Submit the form with copies of the pictures to EPA.HAB@illinois.gov
      OR
  3. If you are a volunteer in the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP), contact your regional VLMP coordinator. Contact information is provided below:
Greg Ratliff - Statewide Coordinator
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Lakes Unit #15
1021 North Grand Avenue East
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
Phone: 217-782-3362
Holly Hudson - Northern Coordinator
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
233 South Wacker Drive, Suite 800
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: 312-454-0400
(Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties)
Alana Bartolai - Lake County
Lake County Health Department
500 W. Winchester Road, Unit 102
Libertyville, IL 60048
Phone: 847-377-8009
(Lake County)
Tyler Carpenter - Southern Coordinator
Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission
3000 W. DeYoung Street, Suite 800B-3
Marion, IL 62959
Phone: 618-997-9351
(Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, and Williamson Counties)

Other Contacts

What Happens Next?

Note: Someone at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) will review all forms submitted; however, the ability to initiate follow-up activities will be dependent on time and resources of the Illinois EPA at the time of the submittal. Priority will be given to publicly owned lakes.

If the Bloom Report and photos support the occurrence of an actual blue-green algae bloom, a responder may be sent to investigate the bloom. The responder could be an Illinois EPA employee or a VLMP coordinator. Illinois EPA will be able to send responders only as time and resources allow.

If a responder is sent to investigate, they will attempt to contact the person reporting the bloom for additional current information about the bloom. They may also visit the lake to collect a sample for analysis of microcystins. A screening test for microcystins may also be conducted. Results of screening tests are usually available within 24-36 hrs. If microcystins are detected above concentrations of concern, the person reporting the bloom and the lake manager will be notified.

A sample may also be sent to the Illinois EPA laboratory for quantitative analysis (with a longer turn-around for results). Results will be provided to the person reporting the bloom and the lake manager, if known.

Illinois EPA will not issue an advisory or close a lake due to microcystin concentrations that exceed USEPA’s draft swimming advisory threshold (see below). Illinois EPA will provide information to the lake manager or homeowner, and may make recommendations on lake usage. With information in hand, the lake manager or homeowner’s association, at their discretion, may choose to post an advisory (or close a portion of the lake), warning people of the elevated microcystin levels in the lake.

Follow-up qualitative or quantitative samples may be taken, on a site-specific basis, as time and resources allow.

Interpreting Results

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has developed draft values for two cyanotoxins, microcystins and cylindrospermopsin, for states to consider as the basis for public health protection in recreational waters (see Table 1). The draft values are recommended thresholds that are not to be exceeded on any day.

Table 1. Draft Recreational AWQC for Cyanotoxins

MicrocystinsCylindrospermopsin
4 µg/L a,b8 µg/L a,b

a.Swimming Advisory: not to be exceeded on any day.

b.Recreational Criteria for Waterbody Impairment: not exceeded more than 10 percent of days per recreational season up to one calendar year.

Swimming Advisory Fact Sheet

Swimming Advisory Document

Safety

Use caution around water containing a possible harmful algae bloom. People and pets should avoid direct contact to, inhaling droplets of, or ingesting any of the water. When working near or investigating a bloom, safety equipment including: gloves, carpenter’s mask, waders, goggles, and personal flotation devices are recommended. If you or your pets come in to contact with surface water exhibiting signs of a potential harmful algae bloom, wash immediately with soap and tap water.

Reporting Human or Animal Illness

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conducts surveillance for illnesses that may be related to harmful algae blooms, and encourages the reporting of any suspect illness to the health department. If you know of a human or animal illness that may be related to algal toxins, please coordinate the submission of a report form to IDPH. Report forms can be found on the IDPH website at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/habs#forms-forms-habs

References

Chorus I, Bartram J. 1999. Toxic cyanobacteria in water: a guide to their public health consequences, monitoring and management. World Health Organization.

Graham JL, Loftin KA, Kamman N. 2009. Monitoring recreational freshwaters. LakeLine 29:18–24.