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Austin Reopens Red Bud Isle After Dog-Killing Toxins From Algae Subside

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
A view of the blue-green algae at Red Bud Isle on Aug. 9.

Red Bud Isle has reopened after being closed for months because of toxins that attached to blue-green algae, city officials say. 

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said at noon it reopened the area on Lady Bird Lake, which had been the nexus of a bloom of algae that was reportedly responsible for the deaths of at least five dogs. The city closed the area in August, and had been periodically monitoring levels of toxins in algae at various sites on the lake.

The City of Austin said dog owners can now let their pets swim in the lake at their own risk. But another harmful algae bloom could happen at any time on the lake, the city warned.

Officials say levels of the toxin reached their peak in August. Scientists testing algae at three sites for the city's Watershed Protection Department found the toxin was still lingering last month. As of Nov. 12, the toxin wasn't present in algae samples taken from Lady Bird Lake, prompting the city to reopen Red Bud Isle today.

Exposure to the toxins that attach to blue-green algae can be fatal for pets, but is not considered deadly to humans.

RELATED | Here's What You Need To Know About The Toxic Algae Blooms On Lady Bird Lake

Nutrients from upstream runoff in the Highland Lakes fed the algae blooms, collecting around Mansfield and Tom Miller dams, according to environmental scientists with the Watershed Protection Department. That runoff was spurred by flooding events along the Llano and Pedernales rivers last year. 

While the toxic blooms largely stayed put this summer and fall, officials worry they could become more prevalent going forward as the earth warms. The algae blooms thrive in clear, warm waters with little flow.

Environmental scientists say the presence of invasive zebra mussels in Lady Bird Lake will likely lead to more blooms in the future. The mussels filter the water, and the clearer waters ultimately allow more sunlight through to feed algae that initially blooms on the bottom of a body of water before floating to the top. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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