Triathlon to go on despite toxic algae warning

EUGENE, Ore. - Organizers plan to go ahead with the swimming leg of a triathlon at Fern Ridge Reservoir despite a public health warning that the water may contain toxic algae.

The Oregon Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program reported possible blue-green algae in Fern Ridge Reservoir on August 15. The health advisory cautions against inhaling, drinking or touching the water.

The algae can produce cyanotoxins harmful to humans and animals. At least one dog has died this summer from exposure to algae elsewhere in Lane County.

Triathlon Eugene organizers posted a video this week in response to concerns from athletes.

"It's Wednesday afternoon and we're out at Fern Ridge Reservoir," the narrator says, "and as you can see, Fern Ridge Reservoir is currently open for swimming and things are looking great out here.

"We've been working very closely and will continue to do so with Lane County Parks to ensure the safety of the course as well keeping the integrity of the triathlon."

Triathlete Natasha Hennings isn't so sure.

"Swimming in open water is scary as it is anyways. It's not like swimming in a pool," she said. "But when you add the risk of toxic algae which affects your nervous system, you feel like the people who are putting on the race should have your safety as their top priority.

"A dog went swimming in the creek, not even in the reservoir but down below, and he died," she said. "And that was a dog.."