State urges public to avoid algal blooms in two western N.C. lakes

Waterville algal bloom
Raleigh, NC

Officials with the N.C. Division of Water Resources are urging people to avoid contact with algal blooms that have been identified at Waterville Lake in Haywood County and the Tuckasegee arm of Fontana Lake in Swain County.  

Earlier this week, state water quality specialists observed concentrations of the algae Microcystis and Anabaena at the eastern end of Waterville Lake. Both algae are members of the bluegreen family of algae, which may produce toxins and pose a potential health risk. Based on sample results from the State Laboratory of Public Health, the levels of algal toxin detected at Waterville Lake are associated with a low risk of adverse health effects.

State water quality specialists also observed the beginning of a filamentous bluegreen algae bloom in the Tuckasegee arm of Fontana Lake. Laboratory analysis of water samples taken at this location identified the algae species as Aphanizomenon and Anabaena. Toxin testing was not performed on the Lake Fontana water samples due to the low concentrations of algae present. Division staff will continue to monitor the blooms at both lakes.

North Carolina has had no reports of adverse health effects in people associated with these algal blooms.

While it is safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, state health officials routinely encourage the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom.

State health and water quality officials suggest 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.

To learn more about algae, visit the N.C. Division of Water Resources’ website at https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/water-resources/water-resources-data/water-sciences-home-page/ecosystems-branch/algal-blooms. 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.

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