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Harmful algal bloom found in Lake Whelchel, recreational advisory in place

According to DHEC, no one should swim or eat fish from the lake
Credit: WCNC

CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has issued a recreational water advisory for Lake Whelchel in Cherokee County after detecting the presence of a harmful algal bloom (HAB). 

According to DHEC, it monitors natural water bodies throughout the state and collects water samples. A sample collected and tested on August 28 indicated that microcystins, toxins created by cyanobacteria (formerly known as blue-green algae), are present in the area of the boat landing portion of Lake Whelchel greater than 40 micrograms per liter (ug/L, or parts per billion). This is greater than the state’s water quality standard of 8 ug/L. 

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names microcystins a potent liver toxin and possible human carcinogen.

“Until further notice, no one should swim, wade or come into contact with the water or scum, foam or algae at Lake Whelchel,” said Bryan Rabon, DHEC’s Manager Aquatic Science Programs with the Bureau of Water.

DHEC is working closely with the Gaffney Board of Public Works. DHEC advises no fish from Lake Whelchel should be consumed until the recreational water advisory is lifted. DHEC and the Gaffney Board of Public Works are posting notice of the advisory on signs at the lake.

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Anyone experiencing illness after coming into contact with the water should seek medical attention. 

According to DHEC, pets and livestock can also be adversely affected by the microcystins at the level detected in Lake Whelchel. Contact a veterinarian if animals show signs of illness. 

DHEC will post updated information when the microcystin level is less than the state water quality standard and this advisory is lifted, or if there are changes to the conditions of this recreational advisory. 

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For more information, please contact DHEC’s Bureau of Water at 803-898-8374. If calling after hours, leave a message that can be returned. For additional information about harmful algae in South Carolina, click here.