But increasing salinity from agricultural irrigation soon shattered the illusion. As the Salton Sea Shrinks, It Leaves Behind a Toxic Reminder of the Cost of Making a Desert Bloom. It can cause hair loss, garlic breath and gastrointestinal problems,” Ahmed said. Regional water quality board executive officer Paula Rasmussen said officials are examining requiring permits instead of waivers, in some cases. "The Salton Sea in south California was created in 1905 when spring flooding on the Colorado River breached a canal," NASA's website spells out. Now it's a 'public health disaster' with toxic … California's Salton Sea, created by accident in the early 1900s, is set to become the latest casualty in the water wars, and is threatening to take the American West down with it. He said the aim is to augment state signage and surveillance. And as the sea shrinks due to the diversion of waters to urban areas, more of the cyanobacteria and other contaminants that currently lurk in the deeper benthic zone could be exposed, he and others said. Ahmed said plants in the area digest this mineral and release into the air as an aerosol, which is air filled with liquid or solid particles. Despite the appearance of being abandoned, the Salton Sea water is regularly tested by the health … To be safe, the advice from the experts is simple: If the water doesn't look right, stay away. "That's brown algae right there," said Jasmyn Phillips, a longtime Salton City resident who kayaks on or walks along the western shore of the lake several times a week. However, the amount of water flushed off farm fields is not nearly enough to keep the current lake level stable. Last year, both Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet and Lake Elsinore experienced heavy blooms and temporary closures. As the Salton Sea continues to shrink, “desert winds will lift dust from thousands of acres of newly revealed lakebed and blow it into population centers, … Algae mats, foamy scum and off-color water all can contain microscopic cyanobacteria that gobble up fertilizers or waste and, using the sun for photosynthesis, explode with new growth. Why does Salton Sea smell? Bahreini said dangerous aerosols can be formed anywhere there’s excessive selenium in the soil. The urgency of addressing human causes of climate change has long been apparent. In response, a fifth-generation farming family sued the city, saying the initiative threatened their ability to properly fertilize fields because it could not guarantee that runoff would not enter the Lake Erie watershed. Due to Federal, State and Local water policies the Salton Sea is shrinking, exposing toxic sea bottom thus posing a serious public health problem to the surrounding populations in the United States and Mexico while disrupting and destroying the migratory and nesting patterns of some 400 species of … ", While the levels observed so far are below World Health Organization amounts identified as dangerous, Geraci said, "just keep in mind, blooms can occur rather suddenly, with the potential to change to toxic conditions just as quickly.". The problem has to do with runoff from the Colorado River entering Imperial Valley and going into the wetland areas around the Salton Sea. But he agrees that as the lake continues to rapidly evaporate, dust from the playa could unleash new toxics, including those found in cyanobacteria. I don’t know if there was enough of a look into the future to see if this would be sustainable,” Olmedo said. Last summer, pet dogs died in Fresno and New Brunswick. The Salton Sea is expected to fall from 3 to 20 feet in coming years because of rapid evaporation and increased water conservation. Salton Sea mud contains enough arsenic and selenium to qualify for disposal in a dump reserved for the most toxic of society's trash. List of algal species found in the Salton Sea that produce toxins or are closely related to toxic species Species found in Known toxic Toxin/type of Organism(s) References the Salton Sea … Created by a 1905 flood that spilled into the area, the Salton Sea rose to prominence as a resort town in the 1950s — “a waterpark playground in the desert,” according to a report by the BBC. More than dust-filled air could be plaguing residents around the quickly evaporating Salton Sea in Imperial Valley. While researchers initially suspected avian cholera, a 2005 paper pinpointed microcystin - a poisonous form of algal bloom - in the livers of birds. Geraci said while it could have helped somewhat, it didn't eliminate the problem. Luis Olmedo, the executive director for the Comite Civico del Valle, an environmental justice organization in Imperial Valley, said the area has long faced health problems related to air pollutants. Geraci said his annual funds for water monitoring have run out, but given the early onset of scorching heat, he'll probably dip into emergency funds to do some testing this month. Ahmed said this preliminary study shows there needs to be more research on the soils around the Salton Sea and how it could be affecting the population. Toledo, Ohio's drinking water was shut off for three days in 2014 due to harmful cyanobacteria. “People living near the Salton Sea are getting exposed and maybe future study can find a correlation between the rates of asthma in the area and the allergic inflammation (in lung cells) we found in our study,” Ahmed said. Phase 1: Siphon sea water from the Pacific Ocean or Gulf of California to refill the lake to its 1907 level. Agricultural workers and communities living close to contaminated areas are more likely to be exposed. To amplify this issue that's paramount to us all, KPBS has launched a Climate Change Desk to step up our coverage of this existential threat including reported stories and interviews with experts and newsmakers. Video by Andi Dukleth. The California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal collects data from regional inspectors and posts them on a map online. IID did not respond to a request for comment. have surged, "toxic algae" are being recognized as a growing problem worldwide. In the subsequent years, agricultural runoff from farms in the Imperial Valley has fed the Sea and prevented it from fully drying up. "Walk a few hundred yards down the beach instead," advised Sephton. But on a recent bright, calm afternoon, she couldn't stop herself from wading through muck to rescue a struggling painted lady butterfly out on the lake. 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