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Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in local waterway

KFL&A Public Health released a statement today, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, advising the public of a possible harmful algae bloom (cyanobacteria), also known as blue-green algae, in Anglin Bay (Cataraqui River.)

Species of the algae that can produce harmful toxins were confirmed by the laboratory of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Public Health said in the statement.

Local residents may be affected depending on their proximity to the algae bloom, wind direction, water flow, and other environmental conditions that cannot be predicted or controlled. Public Health advises users to exercise their judgement before using the water.

According to the statement, blue-green algae occur world-wide and thrive in warm, shallow, undisturbed water that receives a lot of sunlight and that is rich is phosphorus and nitrogen. Animal and human waste and fertilizers containing these chemicals can contaminate water, which amplifies the growth of blue-green algae.

Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals. Toxins can irritate the skin and if ingested, can cause diarrhea and vomiting. At high enough levels, including from long-term exposure, the toxins may cause liver and nervous system damage, warns Public Health.

KFL&A Public Health is encouraging people using lakes and rivers to watch for these algae blooms. According to the release, dense blue-green algae blooms may make the water look like pea soup and can appear as shades of blue, blue-green, yellow, brown, or red. When a bloom is very large, algae may form solid-looking clumps. Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass; older blooms smell like rotting garbage.

If you live near where a bloom was detected or where a bloom is visible, follow these safety measures:

  • Do not use the water for drinking, food preparation, bathing, or showering.
  • Do not allow children, pets, or livestock to swim in the water or drink the water.
  • If skin contact does occur, wash with soap and water or rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove the algae.
  • Do not boil the water. Boiling will not remove the toxins and may release more of the toxin into the water.
  • Do not cook with the water because food may absorb toxins from the water during cooking.
  • Do not rely on water jug filtration systems, as they do not protect against the toxins.
  • Do not treat the water with a disinfectant such as chlorine bleach. This may break open algae cells and release toxins into the water.
  • Avoid eating fish caught in affected water.
  • The liver, kidneys, or other organs of fish caught in affected water should not be consumed.

For more information, please call KFL&A Public Health at 613-549-1232, ext. 1248 or toll free 1-800-267-7875, ext. 1248.

For further details on the sampling process or to report a suspected algae bloom, please contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 or access their website for additional information at www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/blue-green-algae.

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