State officials with the N.C. Division of Water Resources are urging the public to avoid contact with green or blue water in the Albemarle Sound and adjoining waterbodies due to an algal bloom that has lingered in the area since May 14, 2019.
Blooms have been observed along the eastern and western banks of the Perquimans River, in the Pasquotank River near Elizabeth City, and on the western shore of the Chowan River. Counties currently affected include Bertie, Chowan, Pasquotank and Perquimans. Algal blooms tend to move around due to wind and wave action.
Staff with the agency’s water sciences program have been monitoring the bloom. Algae contributing to the bloom have been identified as Dolichospermum, which belongs to the algal group cyanobacteria, or bluegreen algae. Algal blooms of this type usually appear bright green, but can change to a milky blue when they start to decay. Decaying algae produces a strong, foul odor that can impact a large area.
Some species of cyanobacteria, including Dolichospermum, have the ability to produce toxins, called cyanotoxins, which can adversely affect human health. North Carolina has had no reports of adverse health effects in people associated with this algal bloom. State health officials encourage the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and ask the public to prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom.
State water quality and health officials suggest the following steps to safeguard pets and children from any algal bloom:
- Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, blue, 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 are exposed to water where an algal bloom is occurring, wash thoroughly.
- Use clean water to rinse off pets that have been exposed to water where an algal bloom is occurring.
- If your child appears ill after being in water where an algal bloom is occurring, 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 potential health effects from algal blooms, visit the N.C. Division of Public Health’s website. To learn more about algal blooms in North Carolina, visit the Division of Water Resources’ website.