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Concern over the appearance of large amounts of toxic algae in a popular lake in southern Chile

Lake Villarrica appeared with a greenish color tone due to the appearance of algae
Lake Villarrica appeared with a greenish color tone due to the appearance of algae

The Chilean health authorities are on alert and monitor their degree of toxicity which, until now, does not oblige to prohibit the entry of bathers, although it is not ruled out.

The current state of the Lake causes concern in the residents and visitors of the tourist center located in the region of La Araucanía, located 760 kilometers from Santiago.

Almost a week ago, algae began to appear, gradually turning the water more and more cloudy. Most worrisome is the abnormal level of water toxicity. Thus, one of the most iconic natural attractions in the area is now with a cloudy appearance.

The Chilean Ministry of Health warned of these abnormal levels of toxicity in Lake Villarrica and from the Regional Ministerial Secretariat for the Environment, the entity responsible for this type of event in the area, assured that the levels of toxicity, despite their abnormality, do not represent a danger to the health of people in recreational activities, such as bathing in the lake. Nevertheless, at the time of ingesting the water it could generate health problems.

Causes

The appearance of these algae is mainly related to the high temperatures. Although in this sector, there has been a historical discussion about a contamination process caused by the presence of nitrates and phosphates, which causes the generation of this phenomenon known as algal blooms or blooms.

The environmentalist and activist from the area, Víctor Durán, In a conversation with local media, he pointed out that “these blooms (yellow or brown in color) have been appearing in Lake Villarrica (also in other lakes in Chile) since the 1990s and for 10 years they have been monitored by the Fundación Red de Nuevas Ideas and reported to the respective environmental and health authorities,” he warns.

Toxic algae: Authorities call not to bathe in an emblematic tourist lake in southern Chile

“It is necessary to indicate that these blooms appear in spring and summer and they can last a few days or several weeks depending on various factors.” “Not the entire lake is affected, but some coasts and extensive open areas. Various studies worldwide indicate that 50% of these blooms proliferate algae that generate toxins that can affect the health of people and biodiversity, which is represented in dermatitis, inflammation of the mucous membranes, blisters and deep desquamation of the skin, among others. ”.

The former councilor said, “Neither does the Ministry of Health have a known action protocol in case these blooms appear on the beaches of Lake Villarrica or other lakes in the country.” “All existing protocols establish the immediate closure of beaches where blooms appear of algae, until the algae present is determined.”

If the algae does not generate toxins, the affected beaches are reopened immediately, but if they are algae that generate toxins, the levels of those toxins must be measured and reopened when the levels are safe.” “In this way, the Ministry of Health should regulate these toxins and establish a protocol known to the community, not only for Lake Villarrica but for all the lakes in the country.” Let’s hope that the Ministry of Health finally considers these proposals,” said Víctor Durán.

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