Jeff Co. official: Lake Billy Chinook water safe to recreate

Businesses feeling pinch of state health advisory

Business disputes Lake Billy Chinook health alert

CULVER, Ore. - A day after the Oregon Health Authority extended a health advisory at Lake Billy Chinook to include the entire lake, some boaters and businesses are disputing the alert, saying the water is clear and safe to recreate in. 

Jim Cyr is the owner of the Cove Corner Store near the Cove Palisades State Park and has been recreating on Lake Billy Chinook since 1990. 

Cyr said Thursday he hasn't seen any evidence of algae bloom like what state officials are describing.

"Normally, you can't see rocks in the bottom, or anything, if you're having an algae bloom. You can see probably 10 feet in the water. It's the clearest I've seen it ever, even in the middle of winter," Cyr said. 

OHA said the test results are from water samples taken during the Fourth of July weekend. 

"One of the reasons we expanded is recently, the Oregon Health Authority lowered that testing level so now any level is a notifiable level," said Michael Baker of Jefferson County Public Health. "When we see those, we go ahead and issue those alerts to let everyone know basically what's going on at the lake."

Cyr said he wants health officials to be proactive when it comes to testing the water once the algae bloom clears. 

His business has seen the impacts of this health alert. 

"The Cove Corner Store, we've been busy," Cyr said. But since this alert came out, it's definitely affected business, not just us but the gas stations, the motels, the restaurants. And it affects everybody in Jefferson County when these alerts come out, and there's no common sense to the alert that they put out." 

According to OHA, there have been no cases of illnesses involving the lake so far this year. Last year, there were three reported cases of people getting sick because of the algae bloom at Lake Billy Chinook. 

Officials said symptoms include dizziness and skin irritations. Children and dogs are at a high risk. 

"Going out to the lake, having fun, going on the boat, going swimming, just take precautions," Baker said. "Don't drink the water, do a quick rinse off, especially for kids and pets, give them a quick bath that will reduce the health issues that are associated with it," Baker said. 

Baker said his department will be asking Jefferson County commissioners for more funding so they can continue testing the water at Lake Billy Chinook.

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