COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has issued a recreational water advisory for Lake Whelchel in Cherokee County after DHEC detected the presence of a harmful algal bloom (HAB). 

As part of DHEC’s routine monitoring of natural water bodies throughout the state, a water sample was collected and tested on August 28 with the results indicating that microcystins, which are toxins produced by cyanobacteria (formerly known as blue-green algae), are present in the area of the boat landing portion of Lake Whelchel greater than 40 micrograms per liter (ug/L, or parts per billion).

This is greater than the state’s water quality standard of 8 ug/L. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names microcystins a potent liver toxin and possible human carcinogen. 

“Until further notice, no one should swim, wade or come into contact with the water or scum, foam or algae at Lake Whelchel,” said Bryan Rabon, DHEC’s Manager Aquatic Science Programs with the Bureau of Water.

DHEC is working closely with the Gaffney Board of Public Works. DHEC advises no fish from Lake Whelchel should be consumed until the recreational water advisory is lifted. DHEC and the Gaffney Board of Public Works are posting notice of the advisory on signs at the lake.

Individuals are advised to seek medical attention if they or their family members are experiencing illness after coming into contact with the water.  

Pets and livestock also may be vulnerable to adverse health effects of microcystins at the level detected in Lake Whelchel. Contact a veterinarian if animals show signs of illness. 

DHEC will post updated information when the microcystin level is less than the state water quality standard and this advisory is lifted, or if there are changes to the conditions of this recreational advisory.