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Lake McKenzie closed until spring due to harmful algae bloom

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Day at the lake

Havel Neal, 3, and friend Landon O'Neal, 4, cool off in Lake McKenzie in this 2019 photo. The city has closed the lake due to the presence of harmful algae blooms.

The waters of Casper’s Lake McKenzie contained harmful algae blooms, testing revealed earlier this week. As a result, the lake will remain closed until at least the spring, the city announced Friday.

The city closed the lake to public use in late September after park workers discovered an algae-like substance. Employees fenced off the area and placed warning signs nearby, though they kept the adjacent trail and park open.

Samples from the lake were sent off for testing. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality confirmed the presence of the harmful blooms. Harmful cyanobacterial blooms, also known as HCBs, can make people and pets sick. They are dense concentrations of bacteria that look similar to algae, the city said.

Citing the environmental quality department, the city said the cold will naturally kill the algae bloom when the lake’s waters freeze this winter. Few people would have been expected to use the lake until the next testing cycle, given the temperature.

“As long as you and your pets stay out of the water and completely away from the shoreline, they rest of the park is completely safe,” Casper Parks Supervisor Katy Hallock said in a statement.

The city plans to work with the state next spring to perform additional testing, but officials remain confident the lake will be clear by then.

Harmful blooms have become a growing concern across the country in recent years. The tiny organisms that cause the blooms grow better in warmer water — an effect of climate change. And they thrive in water overloaded with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which rainwater carries from onshore sources, such as manure, to nearby lakes, ponds and streams.

Lake McKenzie sits in central Casper, just north of Interstate 25. It’s a popular spot for swimming and fishing in the summer.

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