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U.S. EPA, State and tribes, warn against Klamath River blue-green algae Contact with blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, skin rash

Release Date: 07/05/2007
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano 415-947-4307

SAN FRANCISCO - Due to its potential health risks, federal, state, local, and tribal agencies are urging swimmers, boaters and recreational users to avoid contact with the blue-green algae now blooming in Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs on the Klamath River in Northern California.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California agencies including: the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Water Resources Control Board, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Department of Public Health, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes urge residents and recreational users of the Klamath river to use caution or avoid getting in the water near these blooms, especially during the upcoming summer months.

“As blue-green algae can pose health risks, especially to children and pets, we urge people to be careful where they swim when visiting the reservoirs,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s Water Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Try to avoid swallowing or inhaling drops of water in an algal bloom area as well as skin contact with water by people or their pets.”

The algal blooms look like green, blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats floating on the water. Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Liver failure and death have occurred in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.


“This is a situation that anyone who comes into contact with water at Copco or Iron Gate should be aware of. Vacationers and the public should adjust their activities accordingly,” said Catherine Kuhlman, Executive Officer North Coast Regional Water Board. “The precautions that we are recommending are reasonably simple and common sense.”


The Statewide Guidance on Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following:

• Avoid wading and swimming in water containing visible blooms or water containing algal scums or mats;
• If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow the water;
• Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water under any circumstances;
• Consume fish only after removing guts and liver, and rinsing fillets in clean drinking water;
• Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water or swim through heavy scums or mats, nor lick their fur after going in the water;
• Get medical treatment right away if you think that you, your pet, or your livestock might have been poisoned by blue green algae toxins. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue green algae.
With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people can still visit Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs and enjoy activities such as camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, picnicking or other recreational activities excluding direct contact with the algae bloom scum.

For more information, please visit:

World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, 3rd Edition: www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/gdwq3/en/index.html

California Department of Public Health:
http://www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/ddwem/bluegreenalgae/index.htm
State Water Resources Control Board:
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/bluegreenalgae/index.html
National Center for Disease Control:
http://www.cdc.gov/hab/cyanobacteria/facts.htm
Siskiyou County Public Health Department:
http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/phs/
(530) 841-2100
Yurok Tribe Real Time Water Quality and BGA Data
http://exchange.yuroktribe.nsn.us/lrgsclient/stations/stations.html
North American Lake Management Society:
http://www.nalms.org/Resources/BlueGreenInitiative/Overview.htm

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