When the flow of our lakes, streams and rivers begin to slow and the temperature of the recreational water rises, it creates the perfect condition for dangerous algae blooms. As a reminder, people, pets and livestock should keep out of rivers, lakes, ponds and any bodies of water that have scum layers, large mats or other visible blooms of blue-green algae.
Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria and are naturally found in fresh and marine water bodies and in large quantities, they present a health risk.
Warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen can cause algae growth. Blooms can occur at any time but are most common in late summer or early fall. The bloom can be green, blue green, white or brown, and may look like a floating layer of scum.
If toxic algae touches a person's skin or is accidentally inhaled or swallowed, it may cause a rash, allergic reaction, or gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In large quantities, the toxins can also cause neurological or liver damage and lead to death. Reactions can occur anywhere from a few hours to days after exposure.
People and pets should not swim, nor wade, in water that contains algae. People should not drink or cook with this water. Even if the water is boiled or filtered, the toxins can persist. Livestock should not swim, nor drink, from areas where there is foam, scum or mats.
Get medical treatment for any person, pet or livestock is suspected of having been poisoned by blue green algae toxins.
Please also follow healthy water habits when in recreational waters:
- Actively supervise children and pets in or near water
- Avoid algae blooms (brightly colored water) and trash in the water
- People with immuno-suppressive diseases should avoid direct contact with natural bodies of water
- Always wash hands/shower after swimming.
- Do not drink water from rivers, lakes, streams or creeks
- Do not cook or wash dishes with river/lake water
- Do not change diapers in or near water
- Do not swim when you are sick
- Do not enter the water if you have cuts or open sores. These are pathways for bacteria to enter your body
- Do not enter the water for several days after a significant rainstorm. Storm flows spike bacteria levels, which decrease with time