EDENTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Algae blooms may look innocent enough, but state health experts warn they can be dangerous.
Chowan County manager Kevin Howard has worked closely with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources since large algae blooms were found along Queen Anne’s Creek and the Chowan River a few weeks ago.
”The testing showed up you had more the algae itself, which has a certain health concern, and you also have a toxin level that the algae produces as it ages” said Howard.
The hot weather we’ve seen this summer and the calm waters here may be to blame for the boom in the bluish-green gunk. Algae is usually a great benefit to marine life as a food source. But the type found in these waters can also produce harmful toxins that can cause illness or even death.
”Later on if the toxin levels were to go up, the concern would be digestive issues if you consume the actual algae or the toxin in the water” explained Howard.
For now, the main concern is irritation or a rash from the algae. If you come in contact with it, wash skin in the affected areas as soon as possible. Officials also offer this advice.
”Definitely don’t be swimming in it, especially children and animals. They don’t really know not to ingest the water. Try to stay away from the larger plume areas. We’re not discouraging boating or anything of that nature, but just being careful” said Howard.
Not much can be done to control the algae blooms. Nature simply has to run its course.
Experts expect the algae to decline over the next several days.
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://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/algae/protect.html. To learn more about algae, visit the N.C. Division of Water Resources’ website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/ess/eco/blooms.