CASTRO VALLEY — Stemming from California’s drought, three pet dogs have died after lapping up water in a popular recreation lake fouled by toxic algae flourishing in scarce rain and runoff.
The East Bay Regional Park District reported Saturday it is installing bigger and bolder signs at Lake Chabot Regional Park to warn dog owners of the danger after dog owners complained the notice was inadequate.
A chocolate Labrador died Wednesday after being exposed to lake water. Two dogs died in December as well, regional park officials confirmed. The algae produces toxins that attack the dog’s nervous system and liver.
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The regional park district has long banned people and dogs from wading or swimming in Lake Chabot because it’s an emergency backup drinking water source for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Some dogs, however, go for a drink or a swim.
“Our hearts go out to the owners of these dogs that have passed away. It’s tragic,” said Carolyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the park district. “We are putting up more signs and making them more obvious to keep dogs away from the water.”
Algae blooms have come and gone in regional park lakes over the years, with rain and runoff flushing away the impurities. But the drought stoked concentrations to toxic levels last year at Lake Temescal in Oakland and in the northwestern section of Lake Chabot.
Temescal, a 13-acre lake, was closed to swimmers for 46 days last year before it was treated with chemicals and reopened over Labor Day weekend.
About the same time in September, the algae bloom took off in Lake Chabot. Park officials said it would be far more difficult to chemically treat Chabot Lake because it’s much bigger, at 315 acres.
And besides, officials said, body contact activities such as wading and swimming remain banned there.
The park district did not issue a news release about the Chabot algae bloom to avoid alarming visitors, park officials said. But it did post signs at the park entrance, and employees cautioned entering drivers about the algae threat.
By Saturday, many park users were aware of the situation.
Adam Roberts of Oakland, who was at the park Saturday with his Jack Russell mix Sagan, said he found an alert about the algae bloom when he looked up the lake on Google.
Julianna and Usman Chaudhary of San Leandro, who were walking their 4-month-old son Benji and Maltese poodle Chompers, had seen reports on television and were also advised by park employees.
“When we paid our dog fee the gentleman gave us that warning,” Usman Chaudhary said.
Julianna Chaudhary said, “I think most dog owners know not to let their dog drink stagnant water,” noting that their veterinarian had given them the same advice. “Our dog doesn’t play in the water anyway,” she said.
Richard Helton of Oakland, a disabled veteran at the park with his therapy dog Lucy and his dog Blue, both miniature Dobermans, said he knew about the algae bloom, but didn’t realize it was toxic. “You just taught me it was poison,” he told a reporter, adding “I don’t let them go down to the lake anyway, because of the ticks.”
The district also advises anglers or boaters who touch the lake water to wash it off with fresh water. Anglers are advised to clean the guts out of fish before cooking and heating them.
In the meantime, Chabot Park continues to remain open.
Elsewhere in California, blue-algae blossoms occurred last year in the Copco Reservoir, on the Klamath River, and the Silverlake Reservoir, near Crestline, in Southern California
Staff writer Tom Lochner contributed to this report. Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.