Friday, July 19, 2024

As It Gets Warmer, Consider Safety When Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Blooms are Present

The following is a press release issued by Lake County:

Cyanobacteria in Clear Lake [Picture from the Clear Lake Water Quality Facebook page]

As temperatures begin to rise, regional health and water resource officials are reminding residents and recreationists to be cautious if they are planning activities on local lakes and streams, now and throughout the summer. Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in all freshwater and marine aquatic ecosystems. Usually, cyanobacteria concentrations are low and not harmful to humans and animals. But when conditions are favorable (high nutrients and warm weather), these organisms can rapidly grow, forming visible colonies or “harmful algal blooms.”

The toxic chemicals produced by these algal blooms are referred to as “cyanotoxins.” Exposure to these toxins causes sickness and other severe health effects in people, pets, and livestock. Sensitive individuals, including young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk of adverse health effects attributable to cyanotoxins.

Individuals are most often exposed while swimming or participating in other recreational activities in and on the water. The most common routes of exposure are direct skin contact, accidental ingestion of contaminated water, or accidental inhalation of water droplets in the air (e.g., while water skiing). Symptoms of exposure to cyanotoxins include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, or wheezing. More severe symptoms may result from longer or greater amounts of exposure.

If you are concerned you have symptoms resulting from exposure to cyanotoxins, immediately contact your health care provider or call County of Lake Health Services at (707) 263-1090. Please inform them of the timing and details of this exposure. If you see or think you see a cyanotoxin bloom, please contact Water Resources at (707) 263-2344 or Environmental Health at (707) 263-1164. Anyone can report a cyanotoxin bloom or receive additional information at the www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs

Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae is not to be confused with green algae (i.e., phytoplankton), which is beneficial, non-toxic, and always present in Clear Lake. Water testing is the best way to identify the type of algae that is in the lake at a specific time and location. During warm seasons, water quality testing is conducted every two weeks at approximately 20 locations throughout Clear Lake. Those who plan to recreate in or on Lake County waters should look for informational signs posted throughout the county and are advised to avoid contact with water that:

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• looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint;
• has surface scums, mats, or films;
• has a blue or green crust at the shoreline;
• is discolored or has green-colored streaks; or
• has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.

The Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians who maintains these water monitoring sites around the lake, is already seeing caution levels of cyanotoxins this season. Additional signs are posted when cyanotoxins reach Caution, Warning, or Danger levels. These signs are brightly colored and affixed below the permanent informational signs to provide the public specific guidance to decide which activities are responsible to continue. If you would like to post a sign at your beach or ramp, please contact Water Resources at (707) 263-2344.

People are also advised to keep pets and livestock out of the water. Do not allow pets and livestock to drink from the water and do not allow them to lick their fur after swimming in water containing cyanobacteria. If you or your pet has contact with water you suspect may have a cyanotoxin bloom, rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be the result of exposure, contact your veterinarian immediately and inform them of the timing and details of this exposure.
To find the most current information on Clear Lake’s water quality and if a cyanotoxin bloom is occurring, visit the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians’ cyanotoxin monitoring webpage here: www.bvrancheria.com/clearlakecyanotoxins.

For additional information about cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms, please visit the following websites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov/habs/index.html
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): www.epa.gov/cyanohabs

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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