OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Contracted cleanup crews will begin removing dead fish from Lake Merritt on Wednesday, according to the City of Oakland Public Works.
OPW staff members are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to determine how to treat the area. The department plans to facilitate a clean-up effort along the lake’s shoreline to remove dead wildlife and mitigate the odor ahead of the high temperatures this weekend.
out of an abundance of caution, cleanup crews will be wearing protective gear, and community members are asked to give work crews and vehicles space to complete the work. OPW also noted that the office is waiting for results of water testing that was performed by the Water Board on Aug. 22, and the office will share that information as it becomes available.
OPW commented on speculation that algae blooms occurred in the lake as a result of sewers overflowing into the lake, but the office refutes this since the blooms have been reported across the Bay Area. The office also stated that algae is a normal and regularly occurring organism in the lake, and many summers the city uses an algae skimmer to remove it from the lake.
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The Water Board working with OPW first found low levels of contaminants that were associated with the algae blooms in May. The office has since posted signage warning lake visitors to stay away from the algae, scum, and water for safety.
OPW shared that algal blooms at Lake Merritt are generally caused by increased inputs of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers or human and animal wastes. Low water flows, stagnant water, increased sunlight, and high temperatures can all create ideal temperatures for algal blooms. According to OPW current research suggests that rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns resulting from climate change could be impacting the growth.
OPW suggested two key ways to support the efforts at the lake. The first way suggests that property owners avoid over irrigating their landscaping and lawns to prevent excess nutrients from entering waterways. People around the lake can also avoid littering, especially food and containers which can contribute to excess nutrients as well.
A new website that allows users to upload photos tracking the algal blooms already has over 400 observations of over 40 dead species across the Bay Area. Lake Merritt has over 50 reports of dead wildlife since the website began tracking.