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Environmental Health officials with the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Mendocino County Environmental Health (Mendocino EH), and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) are issuing a warning to recreational users of all bodies of fresh water to avoid contact with algae.
Typically, algae warnings come out between late July and early August, coinciding with low flows and sustained high temperatures in the inland areas. These factors, coupled with drought conditions, may cause blue-green algae to grow earlier than usual.
Human activities can have a big effect on nutrient and water flows in rivers, streams and lakes. Nutrients found in fertilizers, animal waste and human waste can stimulate blooms. Excessive water diversions can also increase water temperatures and reduce flows. People can take the following measures to prevent algal blooms in our waters:
Blue-green algae can be present in any fresh water body. It looks like dark green, blue-green, orange or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water. Most blue-green algae does not affect animals or people, however, warm water and abundant nutrients can cause blue-green algae to grow more rapidly than usual. These floating algal masses or “blooms” can produce natural toxins that are very potent. 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.
While the presence of blue-green algae toxins has been previously confirmed in some water bodies within Humboldt and Mendocino counties including the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Trinity rivers, it is difficult to test and monitor the many miles of our local rivers with conditions that may vary. Most algal blooms in California contain harmless green algae, but it is important to stay safe and avoid contact.
To learn more about the occurrence and appearance of blue-green algae on the South Fork Eel River, see the Eel River Recovery Project Toxic Algae Factsheet http://eelriverrecovery.org/documents/cyanobacteria%20factsheet_Mar26_FINAL.pdf.
DHHS, Mendocino EH, and NCRWQCB officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of freshwater areas:
For more information or to report unusual blooms or conditions occurring within Humboldt County, contact Humboldt County Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241. Photos of suspected blooms can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report unusual blooms or conditions occurring within Mendocino County contact 707-234-6625.
More details about blue-green algae are available at the California Department of Public Health’s website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/water/Pages/bluegreenalgae.aspx.
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