Algal blooms have gotten a bad rap over the past few summers—but not all are toxic. Some are totally normal.
If you happen to wander by the pond at the Park City Municipal Golf Course’s 14th hole, don’t be alarmed by the brownish-green slime you see floating at the top. A combination of fertilizer nutrients and sunshine has resulted in the formation of an algal bloom. Summit County Environmental Health Director Phil Bondurant says it’s just a part of the transition from winter to spring.
“What happens is we get some sunlight, and as that ices off the first few inches of water, that gets warmer than the rest of the water," Bondurant said. "So you see this almost green mashed potato-looking algae, and that's pretty common in most climates like ours.”
It’s not a harmful bloom, like the cyanobacteria-based ones in Rockport and Echo Reservoirs last summer. Bondurant says that type of algae even looks different.
“They’re very beautiful-looking because they shimmer under the water and they’re iridescent, but there's nothing that actually surfaces," Bondurant said. "Everything is in the top 18 inches of the water column, but nothing ever comes up above.”
Bondurant says blooms this time of year aren’t indicative of any problems down the road when warmer weather arrives, and because it’s surface algae, it won’t have any effect on the surrounding groundwater.
“This is a naturally occurring cycle, and there’s insects and other things that depend on this type of cycle to take place," Bondurant said. "The microorganisms that feed off of that detritus material that comes off of an algal bloom once it dies—it's all part of that cycle and you're exactly right it is it is pretty neat”
Still, though, Bondurant advises against drinking or playing in the water.