Update: Swimming has resumed at the South Abutment Beach. Click here for more information: http://www.dailymail.com/News/statenews/201306280085
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- High levels of harmful blue-green algae at Sutton Lake have halted swimming and waterskiing.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cautioning swimmers and boaters about coming into contact with a bloom of blue-green algae, which is capable of producing toxins harmful to children and animals.
A local marina owner said the public reaction to the situation is costing him visitors.
"I'm doing as well as an owner of a marina that has incorrectly been labeled as 'closed' can be," said Bill Hunt, co-owner of Sutton Lake Marina.
Hunt said the Corps of Engineers' attempt to caution the public has had detrimental effects on his business.
"Their position is not accurate. In an attempt to protect the public, they've gone into a huge overreaction," Hunt said. "They've gone about it in a way that has put an incredible scare into the public. The lake isn't closed; there isn't flesh-eating bacteria."
Blue-green algae is present in all lakes, but during certain weather and water conditions can become concentrated at levels that can cause adverse health effects to people and animals, said Chuck Minsker, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Most blooms produce skin toxins that can cause a rash, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. Some blooms can produce nerve and liver toxins, which are extremely dangerous.
Officials with the Corps of Engineers said those at the lake should avoid contact with any questionable water that may have an odd color or unusual odor.
Toxins may or may not be present at the location of the blooms. They can be moved by wind and water, which can leave unapparent toxins behind.
"Our park rangers know what to look for, and they spotted the existence," Minsker said. "Our specialists test the water and determined the concentration is high enough to be of concern."
At the marina, Hunt said signs at the lake have scared the public, who then posted them to social media and added their own thoughts. That's how rumors of the situation being worse than it is spread, he said. While he said he thinks avoiding a visible pile of green scum would be a good idea, he notes the affected area is just a portion of the lake.
"We have no boaters, nobody on the swimming beach; we're processing dozens of cancellations for rental boats each day," Hunt said. "We've had probably 30 to 45 cancellations, and they're continuing to come in each day."