issued jointly from the
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Public Health
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Brian McManus, Department of Environmental Quality, (402) 471-4223
Leah Bucco-White, HHSS Communications, (402) 471-9356
Dave Tunink, Game and Parks Commission, (402) 471-5553
For Immediate Release
September 30, 2016

Health Alert Issued at Merritt Reservoir; Alerts Continue at Rockford Lake, Willow Creek Lake

The state has issued a health alert this week at Merritt Reservoir in Cherry County. Alerts continue at Rockford Lake in Gage County and Willow Creek Lake in Pierce County. An alert has ended at Big Indian Creek Lake in Gage County.

Samples taken earlier this week at Merritt Reservoir were above the state’s health alert threshold of 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.) Although readings were below the threshold at Rockford Lake and Willow Creek Lake, the lakes will continue to be on alert for one more week. Lakes that are on health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the alert is discontinued. Since this was the final week of sampling for 2016, all alerts will end in two weeks.

When a health alert is issued, signs are posted to advise the public to use caution, and designated swimming beaches are closed during the alert. Recreational boating and fishing are permitted, but the public is advised to avoid activities that could involve accidental ingestion of water and to avoid full immersion in water. Do not let pets get in the water or drink from the lake. People can still use the public areas for camping, picnics and other outdoor activities.

Weekly sampling has been conducted at 50 public lakes in Nebraska since the beginning of May. The lakes were monitored weekly through this last week of September. Sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria have been updated every Friday and posted on NDEQ’s web site, Sampling will resume in May, 2017.

(For more information about potential health effects of toxic blue-green algae, what to look for, and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the attached Fact Sheet.)