Holidaymakers at popular Victorian holiday spot Lake Eildon are being urged not to swim in the lake as high levels of blue-green algae have been detected.
- High levels of blue-green algae have been detected at Lake Eildon since July 2020
- People are advised to avoid direct contact with the water to prevent blue-green algae poisoning
- Symptoms can include skin rashes, numbness of lips and limbs, vomiting and diarrhoea
The region around Lake Eildon attracts thousands of visitors, especially over summer.
Mandy Kirley, owner of Mansfield Hunting and Fishing, said despite the warning, which has been in place since July 2020, people were still swimming in the water.
“There are still a lot of people around caravan parks and set up along the lake and there’s still a lot of boats out there and jet-skis and people wakeboarding,” she said.
Goulburn Murray Water’s water quality coordinator, Bianca Atley, said warnings usually only lasted a month.
“There’s actually a lot of species of algae in there, not just one, and that’s probably the reason this [alert’s] lasted so long. We’ve got so many species contributing to the warning,” she said.
She said visitors could still enjoy the location but should not come into direct contact with the water.
“We think Lake Eildon is a wonderful place to go and we do encourage people to go to the lake and to still enjoy the lake. We are saying that swimming and other activities that involve direct skin contact should be avoided,” she said.
People treated in hospital
Blue-green algae is naturally occurring and is always present in the water at low levels.
When the blooms are detected at higher levels, the algae can cause skin rashes, itchiness, sore eyes, numbness of the lips and limbs, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Ms Atley said while some people were unaffected by the toxins, a number of people had already presented to hospital with symptoms so far this summer.
She said symptoms could take between five to seven days to appear, and people may not realise their illness is due to blue-green algae poisoning.
She said anyone who developed symptoms should seek medical attention.
What can you do?
As a heatwave sweeps across the state this week many people will be looking towards the water for relief.
For those holidaying around the lake, the good news is boating and fishing can still be enjoyed.
Ms Kirley said about 60 houseboats were on the lake in the past few days.
Ms Atley said fish snagged in affected waterways could still be cooked and eaten provided they were cleaned properly beforehand.
“In places like China, where there are blue-green algae warnings all the time and really significantly high levels of the toxin all the time, it has been known to accumulate in the flesh of fish, but it hasn’t actually been shown to occur in Australia,” she said.
“We do definitely say that the guts and gills need to be removed and the fish need to be washed in water that’s not affected.”
Lake remains open
Goulburn-Murray Water said the lake would remain open and people should make their own decision about swimming in the water.
“We understand it’s a place people love to go to and love to enjoy. We’re trying to let people know what the risks are if they do go into the water and that’s all we can really do,” Ms Atley said.
Following the impacts of the pandemic, Ms Kirley said it had been great to see people back in the town.
Ms Kirley said local businesses had eagerly been awaiting the summer period after the difficult year, and she urged people not to be deterred from visiting the area.
“We still have five rivers around us within 10 minutes of Mansfield, so they can go down to one of those rivers for the day and set up their fishing rods or float down the river,” she said.
“We just have to persevere, be safe and enjoy what we’ve got there.”