'Harmful algae' temporarily shuts down Stephens Lake

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COLUMBIA - A warning from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services closed Stephens Lake Thursday afternoon.

Columbia Parks and Recreation announced the closing on Facebook around 4:30 p.m..

"The state department has determined that there is a risk of harmful algae in the lake," the post said. "Parks and Recreation staff is working with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on testing to confirm if toxin levels are present."

The DHSS said, if present, the toxin can cause eye and skin irritation.

Despite the warning, some swimmers ignored the warnings and still chose to hop in and cool off.

One man said he was suprised to see the lake was closed today, saying the algae looked much worse earlier in the week.

But others chose to stay high and dry. Debra Perry said she comes to Stephens Lake all the time to cool off in the fountains.

She said she doesn't swim in the lake, especially hearing about what happened to her boyfriend.

"He went in there one day," Perry said. "He said he came out slimy and it was really hot water. He said it didn't feel right. 

"I told him, 'I won't go in there', since he only went in there one time," Perry said. 

According to the DHSS, algae blooms are caused by too many nutrients in the water, which may have been made worse by the hot and dry weather.