Summer heat brings algal blooms to N.C. waters

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 12:00am

Algal blooms can be a common occurrence in North Carolina water bodies during summer months, when hot weather and extended sunlight cause algae populations to rapidly increase, or “bloom.”

So far this year, staff with the state environmental department have observed algal blooms in areas such as Edenton Bay in Chowan County, Fontana Lake in Swain County, and Pamlico Sound in Beaufort County. You can find information about observed algal blooms on our website.

Excessive algae can be a concern in recreational waters and drinking water sources. While it is usually safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, the N.C. Division of Public Health encourages the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom.

In coastal areas, the state’s Recreational Water Quality program is responsible for posting signs warning people not to swim or come in contact with algal blooms if conditions warrant. For inland waters, local health departments may post similar warnings as needed.

Some algae produce toxins that have been linked with the deaths of livestock and domestic pets. There have been no documented human, pet or livestock illnesses or death attributed to cyanotoxins in North Carolina. Algae can also cause taste and odor problems, water discoloration, form large mats that can interfere with boating, swimming, and fishing, and may be associated with fish kills.

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 bright 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.

Visit DEQ’s website to learn more about algal blooms and the different types of algae and aquatic plants