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Scientist Challenges Claims Of Blue-Green Algae Blooms In Flathead Lake

A boat at the Flathead Lake Biological Station.
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Public Radio
A boat at the Flathead Lake Biological Station.

A viral Facebook post is spreading false information about a toxic blue-green algae bloom in Flathead Lake, according to lake researchers. The post claims that a dog died after swimming in the lake, but the Flathead Lake Biological Research Station says there’s no evidence to support the claim.

The post shared on a private Facebook page and a local social media group, claims that a dog died after swimming near Big Arm State Park. But the post itself says there were no signs of algae in the area, something the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) says is the first sign of bad information.

"Blue-green algae blooms are very, very apparent," says Tom Bansak, FLBS assistant director. "They can be very thick and have reall deep blue-green color. So, if no one had seen something like that, then it is highly unlikely or impossible that there was one."

The Bio Station reached out to area homeowners as well as Big Arm State Park to find that no one had seen any signs of an algae bloom. Bansak adds that the Bio Station this summer has taken some of the best water clarity samples from Flathead Lake in 20 years, and nutrient levels that could fuel an algae bloom are low.

"This year in Flathead Lake has been a very, very low productivity year for algae."

Bansak says the post on Facebook just biologically doesn’t make sense.

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