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Harmful algae concerns prompt closure of small ponds at Morad Park

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The city of Casper has closed small ponds at Morad Park out of concern the waters might contain a harmful algae bloom.

Morad Park, one of the city’s most popular places for dog walking, remains open, as do the trails. But the city is asking park users to keep themselves and their pets away from the small ponds on the southeast pathway.

Experts say higher temperatures, runoff from agriculture, urban development and drought can contribute to harmful algae blooms.

The decision comes shortly after the city closed McKenzie Lake when the waters there tested positive for a potentially harmful cyanbacterial bloom that can sicken pets and people. The lake won’t be reopened to the public until the spring.

The closure of Morad Park’s small ponds comes after park staff reported a “small concentration of an algae-like substance in a contained area” of the park, the city said Thursday. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will test those samples test week to determine whether they are indeed a harmful cyanobacterial bloom.

In the meantime, the city says it has put up caution tape and posted signs around the ponds. The trails and surrounding areas can remain open since the only threat from the blooms comes from direct contact.

“The City of Casper is working closely with Wyoming DEQ to keep Morad Park a safe, beautiful place for families,” Parks Supervisor Katy Hallock said in a statement. “Right now, we’re asking that everyone stay away from the small ponds until we know more.”

Also Thursday, the Department of Environmental Quality issued a public statement noting that risks associated with the blooms continue to be an issue even as temperatures cool. While blooms are most often associated with the summer heat, they can occur at other times of the year.

In the case of Lake McKenzie, the city has said this winter’s freezing temperatures will kill the algae bloom.

Harmful blooms have become more common in recent years. They thrive in warmer water and in water overloaded with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which rainwater carries from onshore sources, such as manure, to nearby lakes, ponds and streams.

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Editor

Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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