PHOTOS: No, That Wasn’t A Spill Off Three Tree Point Today, It Was Algae


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BTB Reader Denise Vandenbroek sent us a note through our Facebook Page this afternoon asking us if we “knew anything about a spill off Three Tree Point’s north side.”

Curious, we asked her to take some pics and email them to us, which she did. You can see some kind of orange-colored substance in the water (click images to see larger versions):

After a little bit of digging, we discovered that this was NOT a spill of any kind – it’s merely an algal bloom, of the variety known as ‘Noctiluca,’ which has been spotted around Puget Sound recently.

Although the algae has the ability to glow at night, there’s nothing to worry about – it’s apparently harmless and non-toxic.

According to our source, this type of algal bloom can be bright orange in color, and can look quite thick – almost like tomato soup; here’s more:

Noctiluca is a large dinoflagellate that is named for its ability to bioluminesce–or glow–at night. Although this is a red tide forming organism, Noctiluca is harmless and non-toxic and for a number of weeks in summer, it is often observed in the marine waters of the Puget Sound region.

These “blooms” usually last 3 to 7 days, and are linked to high concentrations of their plankton food sources, as well as seasonal circulation of nutrient-rich water. Runoff from agricultural, lawn & garden pollution may contribute to the severity of these blooms, but is not required to cause such events of explosive algal growth.

We then went down to the point ourselves and took these pics:


This isn’t the first time an algal bloom has hit the coastline of Burien – click here to see some pics our Sales Diva Janet Grella took in July, 2008.

Algae has also been known to show up in Lake Burien – click here to read about that.

Here’s a video shot by scientists at the Department of Ecology in July 2008 that shows the algae as it moves through the water:

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