NorthWestern Energy has signs– like this one found at Ennis Lake – posted to warn water lovers to keep the lookout for algal blooms. The ones at Hebgen are more specific – warning the public that the toxic algae has been found at Corey Spring and Rainbow Point. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Safety Advisory issued for toxin found at Hebgen Reservoir

Confirmed harmful algal bloom a risk to people, pets and livestock

Visitors to Corey Spring and Rainbow Point will now find warning signs thanks to the discovery of a toxin – anatoxin-a – that poses risk to people, pets and livestock.

Humans are at risk from recreational activities that might cause water to be ingested like swimming and water sports. Pets are at risk from licking the toxic algae scum from their feet and livestock can get into trouble from drinking large quantities of contaminated water.

“Ingestion or prolonged contact with the algae bloom may result in illness, with signs such as muscle twitching, staggering, convulsions, paralysis and death,” according to a NorthWestern Energy Press Release.

Blue-green algae has the appearance of pea soup, grass clippings or green latex paint that appear as floating mats or are suspended in the water. While not all blue-green algae is toxic, Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs), some – like the one found in Hebgen Reservoir – can produce dangerous cytotoxins.

Children and pets are particularly at risk since they often wade in the shallow waters where the algae is prone to accumulate “and they also have less control over how much water they ingest,” Department of Environmental Quality Water Quality Specialist Hannah Reidl said.

The public should use caution and – if HAB is suspected – avoid the water and keep kids, pets and livestock out, too, Gallatin City-County Health Department Environmental Health Director Lori Chirstenson said.

Suspected HABs can be reported to or by calling 1-888-849-2938

Those suspecting an HAB-related illness in a person or animals should call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 and seek medical attention.

NorthWestern Energy continues to monitor the situation and will provide updates if additional restrictions are implemented for public safety.

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