Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Blue-green algae bloom being investigated in Thames River

Following reports of a possible harmful algae bloom, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks conducted an investigation and collected samples of the affected water.

Municipality of Chatham-Kent officials say recent laboratory analysis of water samples taken from McGregor Creek in Chatham have confirmed the presence of a blue-green algae bloom that appears to have expanded into the Thames River.

The situation is being monitored, and at this time, drinking water and public beaches are not affected in Chatham-Kent, Municipal officials say.

“Blue-green algae (also called Cyanobacteria) are microscopic plants that live in fresh water,” Municipal officials said in a press release.

“Normally, blue-green algae are barely visible, but during warm weather, algae can rapidly grow to form a large mass called a bloom, giving water a green appearance. Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen contribute to the growth of blue-green algae. Activities such as agricultural runoff, household fertilizer runoff, faulty septic systems, and improper waste management systems can contribute to increased levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in local fresh water.”

Toxins that may be present in blue-green algae blooms can have adverse health impacts, Municipal officials say.

“Potential health effects could be itchy, irritated eyes and itchy skin that result from direct contact such as swimming,” Municipal officials said.

“If water is swallowed, symptoms such as headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting are possible. Laboratory analysis to determine whether toxins are present in significant levels is being undertaken.”

Municipal officials say to protect yourself, avoid activities that increase the chance of exposure to these algae blooms:

– Do not drink, bathe, or shower in untreated surface water

– Do not allow children, pets, or livestock to drink or swim in the water

– Do not cook with or boil the water. This may release more toxins into the water

– Be cautious about eating fish caught where blue-green algae blooms occur, and do not eat the liver, kidneys, or other organs

– Do not treat the water with a disinfectant like chlorine (bleach). This may release more toxins into the water.

Contact CK Public Health at 519-355-1071 or visit the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks for more information.

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