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Algae Blooms Like Those In Greenfield Aren't Widespread, DNR Analyst Says

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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
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Toxins from blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can sicken humans and pets.

Blue-green algae blooms like the one that spurred a drinking water ban in one Iowa town are not widespread in the state, according to a state water analyst. 

Wednesday afternoon, officials in Greenfield said residents can drink their water after boiling it. That's after the city's municipal utility tested its drinking water for toxins from a blue-green algae bloom. While the toxin microcystin is present, the levels don't exceed state standards. 

Warm weather and nutrients like fertilizer runoff can spur blooms of the cyanobacteria. While the organisms are widespread in virtually every body of water in the state, harmful levels of the toxins they can produce are not, according to Dan Kendall with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Our highest year that we had, we only had 6 percent of our sampling events [exceed state standards]," Kendall said. "Out of all, I think it was 534 samples, we only had 6 percent of those, which was 37 events that occurred over the entire year.”

But Kendall said Iowans should stay up to date on possible cyanobacteria blooms in their area.

“Definitely if there’s an advisory out at a beach for these, I would consider looking at another beach that was closer to them that didn’t have an advisory and going there,” Kendall said.

Kendall said so far this year the DNR has detected two instances of toxins above the state standard.  

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter