Island County government said this week that its freshwater lakes technically belong to the state so, without supplied funding, it won’t test for the toxic algae responsible for closing Lone Lake on South Whidbey. Instead, it will continue to rely on the efforts of a private yacht club to keep the public informed on the status of the toxic water. But it may apply for a grant this fall.
Fresh water lakes are under the stewardship of the state, but public health is the realm of all government, including Island County. It doesn’t matter who is responsible for the bill, a public health hazard has been identified and testing needs to be done now — and not by good Samaritans, in this case the South Whidbey Yacht Club.
Lone Lake was recently closed due to the presence of Anatoxin-a, a neurotoxin that can disrupt the link between nerves and muscles and can lead to loss of coordination, convulsions and death by respiratory paralysis. It was over 150 times the state’s safety limit for recreational use.
Island County already electively performs water testing at popular fresh and saltwater swimming holes for E. coli, which is commendable. It may not have funding for ongoing testing for Anatoxin-a or not, and the state should pay for it, but Island County can certainly drum up the manpower needed to provide temporary testing; the actual analysis of water samples can be done by King County free of charge. It’s how we know the lake is toxic.
Lone Lake is one of South Whidbey’s most popular lakes, and in the absence of the state the county is responsible for keeping the public informed about this developing public health threat.