Friday, May 28, 2021

Blue-green Algae Makes an Early Appearance

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2021 at 4:32 PM

click to enlarge The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s Environmental Scientist Jacob Pounds samples the algae mats for analysis. - BLUE LAKE RANCHERIA
  • Blue Lake Rancheria
  • The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s Environmental Scientist Jacob Pounds samples the algae mats for analysis.
Anyone visiting lakes or rivers in the region is being cautioned to look out for blue-green algae after the Blue Lake Rancheria confirmed levels of cyanobacteria at two sample sites on the Mad River this week.

The samples were collected at a popular swimming location known as Pump Station 4 and downstream of the city of Blue Lake's sewer ponds.

“Cyanobacteria can be present in any fresh water body, and looks like dark green, blue-green, black, orange or brown scum, foam or mats on the riverbed or floating on the water,” a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services states. “Cyanobacteria can produce harmful compounds, such as toxins and taste and odor compounds, that cause health risks to humans and animals.”

The positive tests point to an early arrival of the blue-green algae that usual appears between late July and early August, which is considered to be due to drought conditions.

"Low levels of toxins have been detected in algae mat samples from the Mad River, collected by the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe's Environmental Department at two locations where potential algae blooms had been observed," a release from the Rancheria states. "The presence of these toxins, even at low levels, triggers a 'CAUTION' posting by Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services for these locations in preparation for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.   
"A caution level posting means that toxins are present, but currently in low concentrations. Users of the Mad River are advised to avoid all visible algal blooms and scum, especially the mats at the margin of the river. It is advised to keep pets out of the water at these sites."

Sampling done by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board at Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon found no signs of blue-green algae or toxins

Dogs and small children are the most likely to be affected by the algae, according to DHHS, which offered the following tips:

  • Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scums or mats.
  • Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms. Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.
  • If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.
  • Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.
  • Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.
  • Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned by cyanobacteria toxins. Be sure to tell the doctor or veterinarian about possible contact with cyanobacteria or algal blooms.
  • Join or support one of the many watershed and river organizations.

To learn more about cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms, visit the state of California’s website at www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/index.html.

To report a bloom, e-mail CyanoHAB.Reports@waterboards.ca.gov or call 844-729-6466 (toll free). Blooms can also be reported via the “bloomWatch” app, which is available for free download on iTunes or Google play.

For information on conditions occurring within Humboldt County, contact the Division of Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 800-963-9241. Photos of suspected blooms can also be emailed to envhealth@co.humboldt.ca.us.

Read the DHHS release below:

Public Health officials are reminding residents to keep an eye out for cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, while recreating at local rivers and lakes after samples with the toxin were collected at two locations on the Mad River.

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe confirmed Thursday that its Environmental Department collected the samples with cyanobacteria at a popular recreational location known as Pump Station 4 and just west of the Blue Lake Rancheria past the sewer ponds. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board sampled Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon where no cyanobacteria or toxins were detected, and no other locations have been sampled to date.

Typically, cyanobacteria warnings come out between late July and early August, coinciding with low flows and sustained high temperatures in the inland areas which may contribute to cyanobacteria growth in the river. However, this year’s low level of rainfall and low river levels appears to be leading to an early season and increase in algal blooms in some locations.

Cyanobacteria can be present in any fresh water body, and looks like dark green, blue-green, black, orange or brown scum, foam or mats on the riverbed or floating on the water. Cyanobacteria can produce harmful compounds, such as toxins and taste and odor compounds, that cause health risks to humans and animals. Warm water and abundant nutrients can cause cyanobacteria to grow more rapidly than usual causing “blooms.” These blooms are termed “harmful algal blooms.”

In previous years, cyanobacteria was confirmed in some water bodies within Humboldt and surrounding counties, including the Mad River, South Fork Eel River, Van Duzen River, Trinity River, Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, Clear Lake and Lake Pillsbury. It is difficult to test and monitor the many lakes and miles of our local rivers. Most blooms in California contain harmless green algae, but it is important to stay safe and avoid contact.

While most cyanobacteria do not affect animals or people, some are capable of producing toxins that can be harmful to animals and humans. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods of time.

Officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of freshwater areas:

Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scums or mats.

Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms. Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.

If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.

Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.

Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.

Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned by cyanobacteria toxins. Be sure to tell the doctor or veterinarian about possible contact with cyanobacteria or algal blooms.

Join or support one of the many watershed and river organizations.

To learn more about cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms, visit the state of California’s website at www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/index.html.

To learn more about cyanobacteria and algae on the South Fork Eel River, visit www.eelriverrecovery.org/algae.

To report a bloom, e-mail CyanoHAB.Reports@waterboards.ca.gov or call 844-729-6466 (toll free). Blooms can also be reported via the “bloomWatch” app which is available for free download on iTunes or Google play.

For information on conditions occurring within Humboldt County, contact the Division of Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 800-963-9241. Photos of suspected blooms can also be emailed to envhealth@co.humboldt.ca.us.

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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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