Look out for algal blooms in water

A harmful algal bloom warning has been issued for Black Butte Lake on both the Tehama and Glenn counties areas of the lake. 


With high temperatures continuing to bake the Mid-Valley, residents will invariably look to stay cool, and water recreation is one easy cure for the sweltering heat.

But there are risks involved with swimming in nearby lakes, rivers and streams – recreationists need to be a little leery of algal blooms.

Keith Bouma-Gregson of the California Water Resource Board said this is a peak time.

In June the California Water Board issued an algal bloom warning for Black Butte Lake which lies in both Tehama and Glenn counties.

An algal bloom in Black Butte Lake could be harmful and even deadly if visitors or their pets swallow the water,” the California Water Board said. “Regardless of the heat, boaters, dog owners and other recreational users of the lake are asked to be aware of the dangers in the water since harmful algal blooms were found in a recent water test.”

Algae and cyanobacteria, the organisms that cause harmful algal blooms, have existed for billions of years as essential components of freshwater ecosystems, however, the board said that the right conditions — like warm weather, stagnant water flows or excessive nutrient inputs, can make those organisms multiply rapidly and create harmful blooms.

The tainted water samples were collected from the areas listed, but the warning is for the entire lake:

  • Buckhorn day use area

  • Orland Butte Campground boat ramp

  • Eagle Pass day use area

  • The "bowl" near the dam

  • The Borrow Pond on the northeast side of the lake

In addition, there has been a warning issued by officials at Lassen National Forest for Willow Lake.

In recent years there have been a handful of documented harmful algal blooms on the Lassen National Forest. These blooms can be harmful to animals and people. Currently, there is a suspected bloom in Willow Lake on the Almanor Ranger District,” said Tim Pohlman, forest supervisor..“We are recommending that the public exercise caution when visiting or recreating at the site,” Pohlman added. 

The Lassen National Forest is investigating the situation at this time in conjunction with the California State Water Resources Control Board.

Bouma-Gregson, a PhD and environmental scientist specializing in the freshwater harmful algal bloom program for the state, said the challenge is being able to identify regular blooms from toxic blooms.

Not every bloom is toxic,” he said. “There’s no way to visually see if they’re producing toxins.”

Bouma-Gregson said additional chemical tests are done to delve more into which blooms are potentially hazardous to the public and to animals.

As for the public, Bouma-Gregson said awareness is key when recreating in area waters. He said potentially harmful algae blooms can look like “green paint on top of the water,” or spheres clumped together.

According to the Centers for Disease Control animals exposed to cyanotoxins may experience excessive salivation, vomiting, fatigue, staggered walking, difficulty breathing, convulsions, liver failure and death.

Death can occur within hours to days of exposure, according to the CDC.

Bouma-Gregson said it’s imperative that if dogs appear to demonstrate any symptoms associated with toxins from HAB a veterinarian needs to be notified immediately.

As for humans, any sort of direct exposure to cyanotoxins can lead to skin, eye, nose or throat irritation as well as respiratory problems, Bouma-Gregson said.

There were 44 voluntary reports of harmful algal bloom in the state last year. Of those, Bouma-Gregson said the ones characterized as partly exposed to toxins were eight humans cases and four dog ones.

A map of where reports of harmful algae blooms have been filed is located ahttps://mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/

Safe water habits

The following is a list of state water board recommendations for safe water habits at lakes, rivers and streams:

Heed instructions on posted advisories if present.

• Avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore.

• Keep an eye on children and pets (dogs).

If you think harmful algae bloom is present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water, or eat scum/algal accumulations on the shore.

• Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking.

• Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after water play.

• If you catch fish throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking.

• Avoid eating shellfish if you think a harmful algae bloom is present.

• If you suspect you, your pet or livestock has gotten sick after going in the water get medical treatment immediately and be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with harmful algal bloom. Also, make sure to contact the local county public health department.

– Courtesy of the State Water Resource Board

How to report a possibly harmful algae bloom

• Online: www.mywaterquality.ca..

• Telephone: 1 (844) 729-6466.

• Email: CyanoHAB.Reports@.

A report will alert the state water board of a need for assistance and will expedite state efforts to track the frequency, distribution and impacts of harmful algae blooms in California.

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