Cyanobacteria warnings: Blue- Green algae in local rivers and lakes

Humboldt County, Ca., (KIEM)- The Department of Health and Human Services has a warning for the public: if you plan on spending time around fresh water, avoid blue-green algae.

The reason primary reason? The name “Blue-green algae” is kind of a misnomer. It actually refers to cyanobacteria and algal blooms. Cyanobacteria can be present in any fresh water body. It looks like dark green, blue-green, black, orange or brown scum, foam or mats on the riverbed or floating on the water. Warm water and abundant nutrients can cause cyanobacteria to grow more rapidly than usual causing “blooms.”

Typically warnings are released like this in July because higher inland temperatures increase the chances of bacterial growth in rivers. Also, things like animal waste and fertilizers help to stimulate the blooms. The “Harmful algal blooms” can be toxic for children and animals.

According to DHHS: “The presence of cyanobacteria has been previously confirmed in some water bodies within Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties including the South Fork Eel River, Van Duzen River, Trinity River, 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.”

They also recommend following these guidelines near large bodies of fresh water:

* 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.