Health Alerts Issued for Pawnee and Swan Creek Lakes

Issued jointly from the
Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Public Health

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

September 4, 2020

Emily Case, Department of Environment and Energy, (402) 471-4245
Leah Bucco-White, Department of Health and Human Services, (402) 471-9356
Jerry Kane, Game and Parks Commission, (402) 471-5008


Health Alerts issued for Pawnee and Swan Creek lakes

The state has issued health alerts for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), also known as toxic blue-green algae, at Pawnee Lake (both east and west beaches) in Lancaster County and Swan Creek Lake (also known as Willard L. Meyer Recreation Area) in Saline County.

Wagon Train Lake in Lancaster County and Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County continue to be on health alert. Kirkman’s Cove in Richardson County and Rockford Lake in Gage County were removed from the list of lakes on health alert.

Samples taken earlier this week at these lakes were above the health alert threshold of 8 parts-per-billion (ppb) of total microcystin (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae). This is a lower threshold than previous years, based on recommendations issued in 2019 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Previously, the State of Nebraska had set a limit of 20 ppb, but adopted the new limits after concluding that the new EPA threshold is based on the best scientific evidence available, and is protective of public health.

When a health alert is issued, signs are posted to advise the public to use caution, and designated swimming beaches are closed during the alert. Recreational boating and fishing are permitted, but the public is advised to use caution and avoid exposure to the water, particularly avoiding any activity that could lead to swallowing the water. Do not let pets get in the water or drink from the lake. People can still use the public areas for camping, picnics and other outdoor activities.

Weekly sampling has been conducted at 52 public lakes since mid-May. The lakes will continue to be monitored weekly through the end of September. Sampling results for HAB and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on NDEE’s website, The state’s monitoring is conducted at public lakes with swimming beaches and high public activity. HAB may also be present in other lakes in Nebraska that are not tested, so the public should use caution if they see signs of algal blooms.

For more information about what to look for, potential health effects from HAB and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the following Fact Sheet. To view the weekly data for the lakes sampled, go to