CRYSTAL, Mich — A man in Montcalm County is concerned about potentially toxic algae on his lake, but he tells FOX 17, the bigger problem is getting The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to come out and test it.
Mark Hetherington has lived on Loon Lake in Crystal, MI for about 11 years and said he’s never seen an algae bloom like this there until now.
He said that he reached out the EGLE back on July 2nd, but is running into some roadblocks.
“It looks terrible,” Heatherington said.
On a normal day, Hetherington said the water on Loon Lake is crystal clear, but right now it’s a lot more colorful.
“There’s brown, there’s a little bit of blue…some green,” he said.
After doing some research, Hetherington discovered the algae could be potentially toxic and airborne.
He said, “I’ve got some breathing issues, my next-door neighbor who shares a channel with me has breathing issues.”
Hetherington then reached out to EGLE, formerly the Michigan DEQ.
“I contacted the DEQ, they hooked me up with the guy, the only guy in Montcalm County, that deals with algae blooms and tests the water for toxicity, and got his voicemail, and he said he would be on vacation from the 2nd to the 16th, I believe,” he said.
Now, Hetherington is concerned for the kids and pets that like to play in the water and just wants answers.
He said, “My beef is that there is only one guy and the DEQ is so meticulous about what you can and can’t do, and you have to get permits for this and that, yet when you’ve got something of a relatively serious nature here, there’s no one to take care of it.”
According to EGLE, algae blooms are common during the summer because of warmer temps, sunlight, and high nutrient levels. They also warn to stay away if you see lots of algae floating on top of the water and to report it.
Hetherington said, “It could be a major health issue the people that live around this lake and we pay county taxes, so I would expect a little better service.”
Until he hears back, Hetherington is keeping a close eye on his little channel.
“I kind of watched to make sure none of the dogs or pets or kids could even come over here. Got one little kid over here who likes to come and look for turtles and I told him, ‘No, not now just stay away,’” he said.
FOX 17 heard back from EGLE shortly before news time and Gary Kohlepp, one of their project supervisors said that they are getting a large number of reports due to our recent heat wave and that Hetherington did the right thing keeping people out of the water.
Kohlepp said that while they usually do have more than one person able to do testing, it varies by district, and the department is having to furlough employees due to COVID-19.
He added that the best way to report an issue is by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Oftentimes, they can rule out harmful blooms from a photo alone, but will send someone out for testing as soon as possible.
For more information on potentially harmful algae blooms, visit EGLE's Harmful Algal Blooms page.