RALEIGH – State officials are urging people to avoid contact with potentially harmful algal blooms that have shown up in waters in southeastern North Carolina in recent weeks due to the state’s hot weather.
State officials from the N.C. Division of Water Resources are working with state public health officials, staff from UNC-Wilmington, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to investigate algal blooms reported at several sites in southeastern North Carolina.
State officials detected algal blooms near ocean piers at Topsail Island. Those blooms have since moved offshore.
State officials also investigated reports of algal blooms at Lake Tabor, and although no visual bloom was occurring, local officials posted a precautionary swimming advisory until water testing is completed.
On Wednesday, staff with the state Division of Water Resources investigated a reported bloom on the Cape Fear River. Staff assessed the river from Elwell Ferry in Bladen County down to Wilmington, where the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean. No algal blooms were detected along this stretch of this river.
Algal and water quality samples collected from all three areas are being analyzed at the Division of Water Resources lab. Results are anticipated by the end of the week.
While it is safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, health officials routinely encourage 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 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 Resource’s website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/ess/eco/blooms