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Updated recreational use health advisory will stay in place for part of Detroit Lake and include Big Cliff Lake


July 27, 2018

Current toxin data allows for a targeted advisory on Linn-Marion county water bodies

The Oregon Health Authority has updated the recreational health advisory for Detroit Lake issued June 28. This update lifts the advisory for all areas of Detroit Lake except for the area in and around the log boom, and extends the advisory from the log boom through Big Cliff Lake.

Detroit Lake is located 46 miles southeast of Salem. Big Cliff Lake is located along Oregon Route 22 below Detroit Dam. The waterbodies are in both Linn and Marion counties.

Water monitoring has confirmed that levels of cyanotoxins (harmful algae toxins) above OHA recreational use advisory levels for human exposure were found in the log boom area of Detroit Lake and in Big Cliff Lake. Because high toxins are limited to these areas, OHA is able to target these areas for the advisory.

However, Oregon Health officials advise recreational visitors to always be alert to signs of cyanobacterial (harmful algae) blooms in all Oregon waters, because blooms can develop and disappear throughout the season. Only a fraction of the many lakes and waterways in Oregon are monitored for cyanobacteria by state, federal and local agencies, therefore, you are your own best advocate when it comes to keeping you and your family safe while recreating.

People, especially small children, and pets should avoid recreating in areas where the water is foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish-red in color, if a thick mat of blue-green algae is visible in the water, or bright green cells are suspended in the water. If you observe these signs in the water you are encouraged to avoid activities that cause you to swallow water or inhale droplets, such as swimming or high-speed water activities such as water skiing or power boating.

It’s possible cyanotoxins can still exist in clear water. Sometimes, cyanobacteria can move into another area, making water that once looked foamy, scummy or discolored now look clear. However, when a bloom dies elsewhere in the water body, it can release toxins that may reach into the clear water. There also are species of cyanobacteria that anchor themselves at the bottom of a water body, live in the sediment, or can grow on aquatic plants and release toxins into clear water near the surface.

Exposure to cyanotoxins can produce a variety of symptoms including numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy red rash at the affected area. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. People who bring their pets to the log boom area of Detroit Lake or Big Cliff Lake for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in these areas.

People who draw in-home water directly from the affected area are advised to use an alternate water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective for removing cyanotoxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce these toxins through proper filtration, disinfection and other treatment. The Santiam River downstream of Detroit and Big Cliff lakes is the source of drinking water for several cities, including the City of Salem. The City of Salem continues to perform drinking water sampling in these areas and in the Santiam River to ensure drinking water safety. For more information on the city’s sampling, visit

Taking water directly from the log boom area of Detroit Lake or Big Cliff Lake for drinking at this time is especially dangerous. OHA Public Health Division officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that cyanotoxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with camping-style filters. If community members have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds, they should contact campground management.

Oregon health officials recommend that those who choose to eat fish from waters where cyanobacterial blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, as cyanotoxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. Fillets should also be rinsed with clean water. Public health officials also advise people to not eat freshwater clams or mussels from the log boom area of Detroit Lake or Big Cliff Lake and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

With proper precautions to avoid activities during which water can be ingested or inhaled, people are encouraged to visit Big Cliff Lake and enjoy activities such as canoeing, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray. Although inhalation risk is much lower than ingestion, it can present a risk.

For recreational health information or to report human or pet illnesses due to blooms or cyanotoxins in recreational waters, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0440. For campground or lake information, call the local management agency.

OHA maintains an updated list of all health advisories on its website. To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Blooms website and select "algae bloom advisories," or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

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 Media contact

Delia Hernández

OHA External Relations


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