Lake Ainsworth.
Lake Ainsworth. Mia Fowler

Despite council warnings about algae, lake a popular spot

POPULAR family swimming spot Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head was being enjoyed by plenty of adult and children swimmers during yesterday's scorching public holiday - despite the presence of council warning signs about a current bloom of toxic blue green algae in the lake.

Ballina Shire Council staff had been closely monitoring the lake over after the levels of algae particles reached a specified "amber alert" several weeks ago, according to council manager of public and environmental health Kerry Watts.

Ms Watts said the most recent water test on late Friday afternoon indicated the toxicity levels had reached "red alert" status, prompting the official closure of the lake.

Ms Watts said algal blooms could happen any time of year, but are more common during the warmer months. Last year, however, there was an outbreak in July.

Also, it is unknown how long the outbreak will last - but the hotter temperatures this week indicate it could be awhile.

"It's a natural phenomenon so it's very unpredictable," Ms Watts said.

"It could stay around for weeks."

Swimmers should think twice about jumping in, especially on hot days.

Blue green algae results in skin irritation, causing a red rash, and it can cause respiratory distress if you ingest the water. It can also cause vomiting, depending on the amount ingested. And it is particularly toxic to animals.

Several years ago Ballina Shire Council installed an aerator to help more even temperatures throughout the lake, which it turned on in August as the weather started to heat up. It doesn't prevent outbreaks, but assists to reduce their impact.

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