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Blue-Green Algae in Klamath River Considered a “Health Hazard”

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Updated: 9/17/2013 5:28 pm

Federal, state, county and tribal agencies are urging recreational visitors and residents visiting the Klamath River to avoid direct contact or use of water containing blue-green algae currently blooming in the Northern California river. 

Health advisory signs have been posted along the reaches of the Klamath River, including the Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs and below to the confluence with Tully Creek. According to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, recent monitoring found cyanobacteria (Microcystis aeruginosa) cell counts which exceeded public health advisory thresholds in the previously mentioned locations and downstream through Weitchpec on the Yurok Reservation. Residents and recreational water users of the Klamath River from Copco Reservoir to Tully Creek are urged to use caution and avoid getting in the water near these bloom areas.

“These conditions are concerning as blue-green algae can pose health risks, particularly to children and pets.  These conditions underscore the importance of implementing the Klamath Basin water quality restoration strategy,” said Matt St. John, executive officer of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

According to the Control Board’s press release, the algal blooms appear as bright green in the water. They can also appear as blue-green, white or brown foam scum or mats which can float on the water and accumulate along the shore.  Exposure to the toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms.  Liver failure, nerve damage and death have occurred in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.

Visitors and residents can still enjoy camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, picnicking, or other recreational activities while visiting the reservoirs and the Klamath River with proper precautions to avoid direct contact with algal bloom waters.

“We urge people to choose safe activities when visiting the affected reaches of the Klamath River and recommend that people and their pets avoid contact with water in locations with blooms, and particularly avoid swallowing or inhaling water spray in an algal bloom area." St. John said.

The Statewide Guidance on Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following for blue-green algae impacted waters:

·         Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through heavy algae, scums or mats, or lick their fur after going in the water.  Rinse pets in clean drinking water to remove algae from fur.

·         Avoid wading, swimming or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms or scums or mats.

·         Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under any circumstances; common water purification techniques (e.g., camping filters, tablets and boiling) do not remove toxins.

·         People should not eat mussels or other bivalves collected from these areas.  Limit or avoid eating fish; if fish are consumed, remove guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean drinking water.

·         Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.  Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.

For more information, visit these sites:

 

California Department of Public Health

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/water/Pages/Bluegreenalgae.aspx

State Water Resources Control Board

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/bluegreen_algae/

CA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

http://oehha.ca.gov/ecotox/microcystins.html

Klamath Blue-Green Algae Tracker

http://www.kbmp.net/blue-green-algae-tracker

US Environmental Protection Agency

http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/criteria/nutrients/cyanohabs.cfm

Siskiyou County Public Health Department

http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/PHS/phs.aspx

 (530) 841-2100




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