Illinois lakes are popular spots during the summer months, but one community has had to back off from using their lake.
Valley Lake has produced a parasite which leads to the disease Swimmer’s Itch. It spreads through snails.
Signs went up near the lake warning residents but it didn’t keep kids away and soon bite that itch “worse than mosquito bites” were everywhere.
Now residents say they can’t do a thing to get rid of it. They went to the Wildwood Park District board repeatedly but no luck. In fact, meetings are getting fiery and outbursts have occurred.
The conflict is over how to treat the lake.
Residents want it to be treated with copper sulfate, an inorganic compound that kills bacteria and the snails that transmit Swimmer’s Itch. But Park District board members fear it will kill plants in the lake too.
The Illinois Dept of Public Health isn’t choosing sides. They issued a statement saying “The department does not prohibit nor recommend this activity because there seems little or no specific evidence to support the conclusion that copper sulfate treatment significantly reduces the likelihood of Swimmer’s Itch.”
The lake will soon be stocked with red ear sunfish, which eat those that are infected with the snails.
Not clear if that will actually work. It’s now been three years since the two sides have been fighting about this. The longer it goes on, they fear the worse it will get.
Swimmer’s Itch is known to spread from lake to lake with time through migratory birds. So far, no other lakes in that area have been impacted. Plans to start stocking the lake with red ear fish are for this fall.