Saturday’s Paddle for Life Dragon Boat Races have been canceled due to elevated toxin levels at Vancouver Lake. Earlier Friday, race organizers were still planning on holding the event — with added precautionary measures such as adding makeshift rinsing stations. However, once organizers heard that cyanotoxin levels at Vancouver Lake were six times higher than the Washington State Department of Health threshold, organizers decided to cancel the water portion of the event.
“We realized that this was something that was significant and they had some science to lead us in this direction,” said Dee Anne Finken, a volunteer with the race who is also handling communications.
Parts of the event that take place on land are still on schedule. There will be a run/walk.
Cyanotoxins can be harmful to people, especially young children, and deadly for small pets to drink, according to Public Health.
Clark County Public Health upgraded Vancouver Lake to warning status after testing discovered elevated cyanotoxins levels at the lake Friday.
Public Health Public Information Officer Marissa Armstrong said Public Health made their recommendation to cancel the race because the race requires close proximity to water, and would expose paddlers to splashing.
Finken said the Paddle for Life board of directors deliberated about the issue for nearly three hours Friday to decide whether the event should be canceled. She said it wasn’t an easy decision to make, since 38 boats are scheduled to race. At first organizers decided to keep the race on schedule, but changed their minds after “a close review of Public Health’s concerns.”
The Vancouver Lake Regional Park will remain open, and water in park restrooms and shelters is still safe to drink, according to a Public Health news release.
Public Health has been monitoring blooms of of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, at the lake since June 12, when the lake was placed under an advisory. Caution signs at the lake will now be replaced with warning signs.
Public Health will continue to monitor Vancouver Lake, and take weekly water samples as long as blooms are present. When conditions change, signs will be updated.
Health officials recommend: no swimming, water skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing; no drinking lake water; no water contact for animals; cleaning fish well and discarding organs; and avoiding areas of scum when using motorized boats.