RALEIGH – State officials are urging people to avoid contact with potentially harmful algal blooms that have shown up in prominent water bodies statewide in recent weeks due to North Carolina’s hot weather.
North Carolina’s elevated temperatures are contributing to algal blooms in the Cape Fear River, Fontana Lake and Lake Twitty, according to officials with the N.C. Division of Water Quality.
Algal blooms also have appeared above and below Lock and Dam #1 in Bladen County along the Cape Fear River and in the Tuckasegee River arm of Fontana Lake in Swain County. On Lake Twitty, near Monroe in Union County, an algal bloom is believed to be contributing to low oxygen levels that during the past week have killed a few thousand shad, crappie, brim and catfish. The blooms on the Cape Fear River and in Fontana Lake are primarily composed of bluegreen algae, which can grow rapidly in response to elevated temperatures.
While it is safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, the N.C. Division of Public Health routinely encourages 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 an algal bloom. North Carolina has had no reports of adverse health 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 also may reduce the oxygen available to fish and other aquatic animals, which can result in fish kills.
State health and water quality officials recommend the following steps to safeguard pets and children from any 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 into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly. Also, 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.
For more information on the potential health effects from algal blooms, visit the N.C. Division of Public Health’s website at:http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/oee/safefromhab.html. To learn more about algae, visit the N.C. Division of Water Quality’s waterUknow! website at:http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/home/wyk.