No, the headline of this article is not referring to the old 1950s Glenn Ford movie titled “Don’t Go Near The Water.”
Nor, does it refer to the fear of sharks portrayed in the movie sequel “Jaws 2” where I actually started cheering for the shark to eat the idiots who ignored the dangerous waters warnings. Another seasonal hazard has reared its ugly head and that is the dreaded blue-green algae.
According to Dictionary.com “algae are any of numerous groups of chlorophyll-containing, mainly aquatic eukaryotic organisms ranging from microscopic single-celled forms to multicellular forms 100 feet (30 meters) or more long, distinguished from plants by the absence of true roots, stems, and leaves and by a lack of nonreproductive cells in the reproductive structures: classified into six phyla Euglenophyta, Crysophyta, Pyrrophyta, Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Rhodophyta. Blue-green algae are defined as “a widely distributed group of predominantly photosynthetic prokaryotic organisms of the subkingdom Cyanophyta, resembling phototrophic bacteria, occurring singly or in colonies in diverse habitats: some species can fix atmospheric nitrogen.” it is also called Cyanobacteria.
The Oregon Health Authority gives a much simpler definition of algae for those of us who aren’t plant biologists. They say “algae are microscopic plants that grow naturally in oceans and fresh water. Under certain conditions, some algae can grow into a large visible mass called a bloom.” The blue-green is one of the algae that produces toxins (poisons) that can cause serious illness or death in humans and even pets, wildlife, and livestock.
What does an algae bloom look like? Scientists describe blooms as looking like a scum or foam on the surface of the water that can appear in various colors such as white, brown, green, or in this case blue-green. Don’t let that fool you though because you can’t tell whether what appears to be an algae bloom is toxic or not just by looking at it. The water has to be tested to be sure. If the surface of a pond, lake, or reservoir looks suspicious to you (doesn’t always look as green as the picture above) it’s better to stay out of direct contact with the water.
You might remember that four summers ago there were some blue-green algae advisories throughout Western Oregon which included Walterville Pond, Dorena Reservoir, Dexter Reservoir, and Tenmile Lake in Coos County. The one issued for Dexter Reservoir could not have come at a worse time considering it was issued July 3rd. just one day before crowds of people gathered along the shore for a 4th of July celebration with entertainment,food and fireworks sponsored by the Dexter Volunteer Fire Department and the Lowell Volunteer Fire Department in conjunction with Eugene Daily News.
Despite the advisory some folks did go into the water and I know I saw the dog pictured above frolicking and splashing near the shore. I don’t know if anyone got sick, but they were taking an unnecessary risk. Being near the water or even boating, as long as you don’t get a heavy spray of water hitting the boaters, is not a problem.
You must have direct contact with contaminated water. “Skin irritation or rash is the most commonly reported health effect. Other symptoms range from diarrhea, cramps and vomiting to fainting, numbness, dizziness, tingling and paralysis. The most severe reactions occur when large amounts of water are swallowed.The chronic effects of long-term exposure to algae toxins are being studied.”
If you enjoy a picnic, camping, or boating near area lakes and reservoirs you should make sure the water is not going to harm you, your family, or your pets. I post the advisories when they are issued within the “Advisories” section of my weather forecasts in Chuey’s Corner here on EDN, but if you would like to be notified personally when algae bloom advisories are issued just email your request to [email protected] and they may be able to put you on their email advisory list.
Here is the list of advisories as of the time I submitted this column for publication:
- A Health Advisory has been issued for the water around Eagle Ridge County Park on Upper Klamath Lake. The park is located off Highway 140, 15 miles west of Klamath Falls in Klamath County. Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae and the toxins they produce in this area of Upper Klamath Lake. These toxin concentrations can be harmful to humans and animals.
- A Health Advisory has been issued for Detroit Lake, located 46 miles SE of Salem in Marion County. Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae and the toxins they produce in Detroit Lake. These toxin concentrations can be harmful to humans and animals. People should avoid swallowing water while swimming or inhaling water droplets as a result of high-speed water activities, such as water skiing or power boating, in areas where blooms are identified. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy, red rash at the affected area.
- A Permanent Health Advisory remains in effect for the South Umpqua River and Lawson Bar. Pools in the bedrock along the rivers edge are known to develop Blue-green Algae (cyanobacterial) blooms that can be harmful to pets and people if accidental ingestion occurs. Signs have been posted along several access areas along the river.
You will notice that these particular advisories are out of the immediate Eugene-Springfield area, but I post them because so many people travel all over the state during the warmer summer months and you need to know where you need to avoid contact with contaminated water.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].