Algae in Lake Needwood is toxic, officials warn

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) -- Lake Needwood in Rockville is a picturesque and popular recreation spot. Unfortunately, it now comes with a health alert for boaters, fishermen, dog owners, and their pets.

Barna Laszlo won't let his German Shepherd Shaman in the water at all -- and for good reason. Lurking on the water’s surface are toxins that if ingested could cause liver damage, according to officials who oversee the property.

Officials also say that weeks of searing heat encouraged algae in the lake to grow excessively, producing a toxin called microcystin. The latest tests show toxin levels four times above the World Health Organization’s threshold of concern.

A number of signs are now up to warn lake users to avoid contact with the water while urging pet owners to make sure their dogs do not drink any of it. However, officials stress that the levels are not high enough to close the lake completely.

ABC7 caught up with Jose Orellana, who was fishing on a rocky shoreline. He said, “That's the first time I've heard about that bacteria, never heard that before."

While officials say that the fish caught in the lake are safe to eat as long as the meat is cooked thoroughly, Orellana said he isn’t taking any chances.

Meanwhile, fisherman Edward Chiu said he’s concerned enough that he’ll spread the word: "I hadn't heard about this... Tell my friends, 'don't eat this kind of fish that's right here.'"

Officials say that once temperatures drop later this summer, so will the toxin levels. But for now, the warnings at Lake Needwood will remain.