OKLAHOMA CITY ― A prolonged heat wave in the central U.S. has fostered the growth of a dangerous form of algae in lakes and ponds, threatening swimmers and livestock and scaring away tourists during the busy summer season.
Blue-green algae are actually bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans and livestock. It flourishes in warm, stagnant, sunlit water, and this year's heat wave combined with Oklahoma's worst drought since the Dust Bowl have created what one water official called a "perfect storm" for its growth.
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Officials have issued a series of warnings, telling boaters and swimmers at lakes in northeast Oklahoma,nike jordan shox verkaufen southern Kansas and Nebraska to avoid contact with the toxic gunk. The issue attracted national attention earlier this month when Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe blamed a respiratory illness on a swim in Grand Lake in Ketchum Hollow.
The bad publicity has had dire consequences for some businesses in Oklahoma, where tourism is the third largest industry with an estimated annual impact of $6.2 billion. Oklahoma's numerous lakes are a "huge economic engine" driving that industry, said Leslie Blair, a spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism and Recreation.
"We took a beating from hell," said Sam Williams, who sells everything from water skis to fishing supplies at the Grand Lake Sports Center in Grove. "My friends at the marinas say their shops are full to the ceiling with beer that they haven't sold ... all because a senator went into a bad area in a cove and got a rash."
Williams and some others think the issue has been blow out of proportion.
"Every lake has algae," he said. "It might have been a little worse this year because the heat came early and it's been so hot."
Inhofe's office said the 76-year-old Republican has recovered and is feeling fine, although the illness forced him to delay his return to Washington and miss a few votes.
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