Potentially harmful algal blooms in Waterville Lake

Press release from Haywood County Emergency Services:

Haywood County Health officials urge people to avoid contact with potentially harmful algal blooms that have shown up in Waterville Lake recently due to North Carolina’s hot and dry weather.

NC Department of Environmental Quality-Division of Water Resources (DWR) personnel notified Garron Bradish, Environmental Health Supervisor, of the Haywood County Health & Human Services Agency, about an algal bloom located in Waterville Lake beginning on July 11, 2021. Predominant bloom species has been identified as Microcystis, which belongs to the algal group cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae). The bloom was observed in the Laurel Branch and White Oak Creek tributaries.

Field samples collected by DWR officials showed levels of toxins to be 440 parts per billion.

Public Health recommendation: Avoidance of algal bloom waters, especially by children and dogs.
· Possible exposure activity – recreational (e.g., swimmers and wading). Exposure routes: ingestion and contact.
· Vulnerable populations include children and pets (especially dogs).
· No public water supplies affected.

While it is safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, health officials routinely encourage the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of the algae and to take precautions to prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in the algal bloom. North Carolina has had no reports of adverse effects in humans associated with freshwater algal blooms.

A diverse population of algae is usually beneficial and provides a rich food source for aquatic animals. However, when hot temperatures and calm water combine with nutrient-rich waters, large algal blooms may form that can produce toxins that pose a human health hazard. The algal blooms may also reduce the oxygen available to fish and other aquatic animals, which can result in fish kills. Decaying algae may produce a strong, foul odor that can impact a large area.

State health and water quality officials recommend the following steps to safeguard children and pets from the potentially harmful algal bloom:

· Keep children and pets away from water that appears very green, 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 in contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly. Also, use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come in 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 exposed to an algal bloom, seek veterinary care immediately.

For further information call: Garron Bradish, Environmental Health Supervisor, Haywood Health & Human Services Agency, at 828-356-2111.

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