NCDEQ Division of Water Resources urges caution around discolored water

According to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources Fish Kill and Algal Bloom dashboard, several incidents have been reported in WNC, including an algal bloom on the Ivy River in Barnardsville and a fish kill on the Swannanoa River in Eastern Buncombe County. Check out the dashboard here.

News release from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality:

As temperatures rise, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources (DWR) reminds the public to avoid contact with discolored water that could indicate the presence of an algal bloom. DWR has received reports of 11 confirmed or suspected algal blooms in waterbodies as of May 21. Two algal blooms were confirmed to contain cyanobacteria, a type of algae that can be harmful to people and pets.

Certain algae can create toxins that can lead to adverse health effects in humans, pets and aquatic organisms. Blooms that can cause negative impacts to people, animals and the environment are called harmful algal blooms (HABs). You cannot tell by looking at a bloom whether it is harmful or not. To report an algal bloom, contact the nearest DEQ regional office or submit a report online. To view reported algal bloom events, visit DWR’s Fish Kill & Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Algae are a natural occurrence in all waterbodies, but certain environmental conditions can cause rapid algal cell growth called blooms. These conditions include increased nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), elevated temperatures, increased sunlight and low or no water flow. Algal blooms can appear as surface scums, which look like spilled paint, and can be bright green, red, brown or blue; they can appear as algal mats, or as dense, macroscopic growths that float on the water surface; and lastly, they can appear as discoloration throughout the water column. Blooms tend to move due to wind and wave action. Decaying algae may produce a strong, foul odor that can impact a large area.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health (DPH) routinely encourages the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and to prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom. Remember: When in doubt, stay out.

DPH suggests the following steps to safeguard against algal blooms:

  • Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, blue, discolored or scummy.
  • Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
  • Avoid handling, cooking, or eating dead fish that may be present.
  • If you come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
  • Use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with an algal bloom.
  • If your child appears ill after being in waters containing an algal bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • If your pet appears to stumble, stagger, or collapse after being in a pond, lake, or river, seek veterinary care immediately.

DPH also reminds the public to take precautions as other microorganisms or pollution may be present in waterbodies that can lead to recreational water illness.

To learn more about algal blooms, visit the DWR website. For more information on the potential health effects from algal blooms, visit the DPH website.

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