High bacteria levels close Camp Branch Swim Beach

The Camp Branch Campground can be seen across the water from the Camp Branch swimming beach.

SMITHVILLE — Camp Branch Swim Beach at Smithville Lake is currently closed due to high levels of blue green algae, by recommendation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Blue green algae identification tests and toxin tests performed Saturday, July 18, by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff identified cyanobacteria or blue green algae present in the algae bloom near Camp Branch swim beach with low levels of algae toxin detected."

The Corps of Engineers attributes higher levels to hot and sunny weather combined with the current high lake levels providing ideal conditions for harmful algae bloom growth.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, Blue green algae can be harmful to pets and animals. Dogs are especially susceptible if they swim or drink water that has high levels of the bacteria. Animals that do swim or drink the water can become ill or die.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it can also be harmful to people.

“Like algae, these bacteria can ‘bloom’ when the conditions are right. Cyanobacteria are especially concerning because they are capable of producing toxins that can be harmful, even lethal to humans, livestock and pets,” the MDC website states.

Currently, the levels at Smithville Lake are low enough that fishing and consuming fish are safe as long as the fish are well rinsed with clean water, according to the Corps of Engineers press release. The Army Corps recommends only eating the fillet portion of the fish and discarding all other parts. Hands should also be thoroughly washed after handling fish.

“Blue green algae blooms are unpredictable. They can develop rapidly and may float or drift around the lake, requiring visitors to exercise their best judgment. If there is scum, a paint-like surface or the water is bright green, avoid all contact and keep pets away. These are indications that a harmful bloom may be present,” the release states. “Health concerns for people with exposure or ingestion include skin/eye irritation and rash, and ingestion leading to possible diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.”

Although the lake has higher levels than desirable, drinking water and showers at the parks around the lake are safe and not affected by the bacteria.

The Army Corps of Engineers continues to monitor the situation. As of press time, tests were being done on the water content and results were expected later this week, said experts on Wednesday, July 22. More details will be published as they become available.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.​

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