State officials might warn people to avoid swimming in toxic algae at Ohio lakes this summer, but they won’t tell them to keep their boats or fishing lines out of the water.

The state today released its new strategy to protect people from the liver and nerve toxins blue-green algae can produce.

It will post warning signs at beaches, but won’t warn people not to touch the water unless someone got sick or a pet was killed after coming in contact with contaminated water.

State officials last year posted algae warning signs at 20 public lakes, beaches and ponds.

At Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio, toxins grew so concentrated that people were warned not to touch the water, take boats out on the lake or eat any fish caught there.

Ohio Department of Health officials said liver and nerve toxins were the probable cause of sicknesses reported in seven people.

The warnings created a steep drop off in visitors to the 13,000-acre lake and state park. That torpedoed the local tourism economy, leaving many lake area businesses struggling to stay in the black.

Heidi Griesmer, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman, said the state decided to drop the boating restrictions because no illnesses were linked to people breathing in the spray from a moving boat.

And she said that research on fish caught at the lake show toxins don’t build up or accumulate in fish tissues.


By Spencer Hunt, The Columbus Dispatch