Wiser Lake HAB Project FAQ
A downloadable and print friendly pdf version is available here.
What is the timeline for this project?
The monitoring portion of this project began in May, 2023. We will be collecting monthly data for a year or through April, 2024. Thereafter, we will be working with consultants to analyze the data and put together a lake management plan. This will likely take four to six months. Once we know the recommended remediation options, we will work with the community to figure out the best approach and routes to funding possible treatments.
Why is this taking so long? Why can’t we act now?
Before we start any treatments, we need to know the source of the nutrients driving the algae blooms. We are collecting data for 12 months to better understand how waterfowl use, stream influences and nutrient dynamics change throughout the year. We need preliminary data to guide us. If we begin treatment prematurely without any data collection and analysis, we run the risk of choosing an inappropriate treatment route. Additionally, treatments can be costly. We want to be sure we are making the best decision from an ecological and economic standpoint.
What are the impacts of excess nutrients?
Two of the most abundant nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorous. When these nutrients accumulate in the water, this leads to a process called eutrophication. Excess eutrophication can cause an overgrowth of algae. An overgrowth of algae consumes oxygen and blocks sunlight from underwater plants.
What are the possible sources of nutrients in Wiser Lake?
Algae blooms occur naturally, but human/animal activities and nutrient inputs can impact their growth. These nutrients come from various sources including septic systems, agriculture, fertilizer use and wildlife waste.
How dangerous is Wiser Lake?
Based on available data, we know Wiser Lake is prone to high toxin concentrations during summer and fall. Exposure to toxins can result in health impacts to humans and animals. We recommend people and pets say out of the water when toxins are above safe levels.
How can we tell if it’s toxic?
The only way to know if Wiser Lake is toxic is to take a sample and send it to a lab for analysis. The lab uses specialized equipment to test for various cyanotoxins. Samples get shipped overnight to the King County Environmental Lab. Their turnaround time is typically about two days. When the lab results show unsafe toxin levels, we will post appropriate signage at the lake and publish public messaging. You can sign up for Wiser Lake News Updates to get notified about elevated toxin levels.
What is the difference between internal and external loading?
Internal loading is a term used to describe nutrient cycling between the sediment layer and the water column. External loading is a term used to describe when nutrients enter a lake from the land or other water sources around it.
What are some common remediation options for harmful algae blooms?
There are biological, physical and chemical measures used to combat harmful algae blooms. Appropriate treatment will depend on whether the source of nutrient inputs is internal or external. Treatments range from installing aeration devices to applying alum, ferric salts or clay to the water body. You can find more information about common treatment options on the EPA website.
Are there similar projects happening in Washington State?
Yes. Below are links to a few of these projects:
- Spanaway Lake – Pierce County
- Lacamas, Fallen Leaf and Round Lakes – Clark County
- Anderson Lake – Jefferson County
- Loma Lake – Snohomish County
- Kitsap Lake – Kitsap County
What can I do to help?
There are many preventive measures watershed residents can take to reduce nutrient inputs into the lake. A few simple actions include:
- Avoid fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use.
- Re-establish shoreline vegetation with native plants. More information about native planting:
- Dispose of yard waste.
- Schedule a routine septic system inspection.
- Clean up pet waste.
- Prevent runoff and soil erosion. Place hardwood chips, arborist chips or hog-fuel mulch over soil. Use a barrier such as bricks or wood to contain soil in the garden.
Can I eat fish from Wiser Lake?
Yes, but please remember that toxins can accumulate in the liver, kidneys and other organs of fish. Before eating, remove internal organs.