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Maybe you should rethink taking a dip in Lake Afton

Signs at Lake Afton warn of a dangerous blue-green algae bloom. (July 2, 2016)
Signs at Lake Afton warn of a dangerous blue-green algae bloom. (July 2, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

On Saturday, kids attending a party at Lake Afton waded in an inflatable swimming pool.

That’s the only safe way to swim at Lake Afton this weekend, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Earlier this week, the KDHE issued a blue-green algae warning for Lake Afton and three other Kansas lakes after high levels of algae were detected, according to the department.

Contact with blue-green algae can cause skin irritation and more serious complications if it’s swallowed. It can be fatal to pets, the KDHE warns.

Blue-green algae blooms are not uncommon at Kansas lakes – Cheney Lake usually receives one every year or so – though longtime campers at Lake Afton said this was first time they could remember a warning being issued for that lake.

Campers at Lake Afton on Saturday were few, likely the result of a combination of the warning and stormy weather in the area.

Contact with blue-green algae can cause skin rashes, lesions and blisters. If swallowed, it can cause headaches, nausea, sore throat, stomach cramps, diarrhea and other symptoms.

Park officials drove around the perimeter of the lake fairly frequently, checking to make sure no one was swimming.

They told Monty Terrell, 52, and the children he was with to get out of the water Saturday afternoon.

“It’s at your own risk,” an official said, pointing at a warning plastered to a wooden pole.

Once he left, the kids went right back in the water.

“I don’t believe” in that, Terrell said. “I think it’s a crock. ... I was out here for four hours swimming just the other night and I didn’t get sick. How are you going to get sick a couple of days later?”

Grover Jackson, who was at the lake with his wife and three children, shared Terrell’s sentiments but complied with officials’ requests to get out of the water.

The Jackson family swam for about two hours before being told to get out.

I’ve swam in stuff that’s a lot worse.

Grover Jackson, 53, who swam at Lake Afton on Saturday

“I don’t understand what the hype is, the reason behind it,” said Jackson, 53. “The only reason we came out was to swim. ... I don’t understand. I’ve swam in stuff that’s a lot worse.”

Ron and Ed Casida, who were at the lake walking their miniature Pinscher dogs, blamed the poor attendance at Lake Afton on the weather more than the algae warning.

“I don’t think the blue-green algae has as much of an effect as Mother Nature has,” said Ron Casida, 54. “There’s not very many (people at the lake). I’ve been here where it’s been camper-to-camper all the way around the lake.”

Eugene Nichols spent the night Friday in a tent at Lake Afton.

The storms blew his tent over sideways, but he said he weathered the storm without getting wet.

The blue-green algae warning did deflate Nichols’ plan to go tubing for the first time Saturday, he said.

“I just bought the tube and everything,” he said from the back of his boat. “I wouldn’t have got it if I would have known.”

He said he would spend Saturday “just cruising” around the lake in his boat and fishing, though he has to wash his hands after handling every fish because of the blue-green algae.

Mark Sroufe, superintendent at Lake Afton, was unavailable for comment Saturday.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

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