Recent media reports have shone a light on the danger of Blue-Green Algae blooms, especially for people and animals who come in contact with it. Over the last few weeks, several dogs in the Southern U.S. have died from exposure to Cyanobacteria, a known species of “Blue-Green Algae.” Cyanobacteria are not a true algae, but microscopic bacteria whose colonies grow so large they are visible to the eye. Often found in slow or non-moving lakes, ponds, streams and various bodies of water, Blue-Green Algae blooms give the water a murky, blue-green appearance. However, the blooms can also be present in water that appears perfectly clear.
Types of algae bloom can range from a nuisance to highly toxic. Effects that can occur from exposure or ingestion of Blue-Green algae vary. In severe cases, symptoms include rapid liver failure, seizure, vomiting, diarrhea, or even death. The algae can also cause skin irritation and trouble breathing. If you see individuals, pets, or yourself exhibiting these symptoms, call 911 or see a doctor immediately.
Locally after Savannah Riverkeeper submitted samples from Lake Olmstead for testing, Augusta University determined that four different species of Blue-Green Algae are present in the lake which could be hazardous to people and animals.
The bloom, which is when a colony of algae grows at a rapid pace, is in its beginning stages but is expected to spread quickly. Blue-Green Algae forms in the heat of late summer and early fall. The heat, combined with non-natural bacteria in the water, creates a food source for algae. This “food source” can come from fecal matter, plant fertilizers, and other runoff being washed into drainage systems which then flow into local water bodies like Lake Olmstead. Stopping the source of the nutrients, as well as temperatures lowering as the season changes, is likely enough to alleviate the problem.
Until further notice, all people and animals should avoid contact with Lake Olmstead and other semi-stagnant bodies of water. In general, do not swim in or allow pets to bathe or drink from water sources with visible algae or sludge. Clear, swift-moving water is best for recreation in the hottest parts of summer.
While we only test algae on a special case-basis, our Veterans for Clean Water volunteers test local recreation sites weekly for dangerous bacteria like e.coli. You can download and check the Swim Guide app for updates on whether your favorite spot is safe for swimming.
Education is key when dealing with potentially hazardous issues like Blue-Green Algae. Learn about easy and no cost ways you can use to test for it in your area clicking here.
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