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Recreational use health advisory for Lake Billy Chinook expanded to include entire lake


July 11, 2018

The Oregon Health Authority has updated a recreational use health advisory issued June 22 for Lake Billy Chinook.

The original advisory extended from the cove at Perry South Campground to the southern tip of Chinook Island due to the presence of a cyanobacteria (harmful algae) bloom and the toxins they can produce. Based on the most recent data available to the Oregon Health Authority from other areas of the lake, the advisory is being expanded to include all three arms of Lake Billy Chinook. The lake is located about 12 miles west of Madras in Jefferson County.

Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria and the toxins they produce in the Metolius, Deschutes and Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook. The cyanotoxin concentrations found can be harmful to humans and animals.

People should avoid swimming and high-speed water activities such as water skiing or power boating in areas of the lake where cyanotoxins are identified. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy red rash at the affected area.

Drinking water directly from this area of the lake at this time is especially dangerous. OHA public health officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with camping-style filters.

There are no public systems that use water from Lake Billy Chinook for drinking water; however, anyone who may be drawing in-home water directly from the lake is advised to use an alternate water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective for removing cyanotoxins. Individuals on a domestic well should not be affected by the bloom or toxins. If community members have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds and parks, they should contact campground management.

Oregon health officials recommend that those who choose to eat fish from waters where cyanobacteria (harmful algae) blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, as toxins 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 Lake Billy Chinook 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.

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 skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. People who bring their pets to Lake Billy Chinook for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in the lake.

The advisory will be lifted when the concern no longer exists.

With proper precautions to avoid exposure to affected water, people are encouraged to visit this area of Lake Billy Chinook and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk.

For health information or to report an illness, contact the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) at 971-673-0440.

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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