People urged to stay out of Lake Tapps after dozen people sickened, toxic algae found

TACOMA -- The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on Thursday urged people to stay out of Lake Tapps after about a dozen people became sick and officials found toxic algae in the water.

People should not swim, wade or fish at Lake Tapps, and they should keep their pets from going in the water, the department said.

“We are investigating the potential link between the toxic algae bloom and the symptoms people have reported, but there is no definitive laboratory test for toxic algae illness,” said Brad Harp, water resources program manager.

The Health Department has not found toxic algae in Lake Tapps previously.

The department said people who were sick reported symptoms that are consistent with ingestion of microcystin, a toxin.

The illnesses occurred in people ages 2 to 48 years, all of whom recovered within 48 hours, the department said.

"Swallowing lake water or prolonged skin contact with algae may result in illness such as muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and/or nausea in people. Anyone who swallows water that may contain algae should contact his or her medical provider. Toxic algae can potentially be deadly for pets," the department said.

Excessive nutrients from fertilizers, animal and human waste can run off into lakes and contribute to algae growth.

For more information on toxic algae, visit the department's website at or call (253) 798-6470.