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Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Stay up-to-date on current health advisories for harmful algal blooms

July 29, 2016

By Brian Reese, Water Quality Standards Analyst

The first harmful algal bloom (HAB) public health advisories of 2016 have been issued in north and southwest Idaho. Advisories are currently in effect for portions of Fernan and Hayden Lakes in northern Idaho and sections of the Snake River near Hells Canyon Dam, Brownlee Reservoir, and Lake Lowell in southern Idaho. HABs typically occur during the summer or early fall, when air and water temperatures are warm and nutrient levels rise. This summer, we have a new tool to help you stay informed about current HABs.

DEQ now has a webpage where you can stay up-to-date with current information about all confirmed HABs with health advisories. The interactive map shows the location of all advisories and information about the bloom, including toxins present, latest observations, and contact information for appropriate DEQ and health district staff. You can visit the page to learn more about the advisories issued last week.

Make sure you get the latest updates by clicking on the “Subscribe to this page” link at the top of the page.

Blue-green algae are naturally occurring and usually present in a water body, but they typically exist in numbers too small to cause problems. When conditions change favorably for blue-green algae growth, the algae can proliferate and cause a bloom.

Not all blooms are toxic, but when toxic harmful algal blooms do occur they present a health risk to humans, pets, and livestock. Exposure may occur from ingestion, skin contact, or inhalation. Be extra vigilant with small children and pets who may be tempted to immediately run down to the water to wade or drink. Dogs may find piles of washed up blue-green algae and eat them, which can result in a significant illness, organ damage, or worse. Boaters should be aware of breathing water vapor from boat spray. HAB exposure can result in a range of health effects from skin irritation and stomach upset to neurotoxic effects and at very high levels, death. Symptoms in humans are rare; anyone with symptoms should seek medical attention.

Visit our Blue-Green Algae and Harmful Algal Blooms webpage to learn more, and please report any suspected bloom to your DEQ regional office.

The Surface Water Program is responsible for ensuring Idaho's streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands meet their beneficial uses and Idaho water quality standards.

Coming to a stream near you: DEQ’s BURP crew

July 20, 2016

By Shawna Castle, Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Coordinator

As the agency responsible for protecting Idaho's surface water, DEQ continually monitors and assesses the quality of the state's rivers, streams, and lakes. Since Idaho has more than 95,000 miles of rivers and streams and 100 lakes and reservoirs, this is no small task. How does all that monitoring get done? Our BURP crews!

DEQ’s Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program (BURP) began as a pilot project in 1993. Ever since, BURP has helped Idaho meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act by providing data to use when assessing Idaho's water bodies.

Each summer, DEQ BURP technicians follow standardized procedures to collect aquatic insects, conduct fish surveys, measure water chemistry, and document habitat conditions in streams and rivers. BURP surveys are performed during the same time period each year so the information is comparable from one year to the next. Aquatic insects and fish are very sensitive to changes in water quality, so their presence, abundance, and health serve as indicators of the overall quality of a water body.

Most BURP technicians are college students from around the Pacific Northwest. Many spend multiple summers working on DEQ’s BURP crews, which are based out of our six regional offices. Before the monitoring season begins, all technicians and coordinators gather for centralized training. Training includes on-the-ground instruction in collection techniques and a review of the BURP field manual and current year's work plan.

After training in June, most of DEQ’s BURP crews are out for their first full week of monitoring this week. We always look forward to the energy and enthusiasm the BURP crews bring to DEQ each summer and are thankful for their hard work in supporting DEQ’s efforts to protect Idaho surface waters.

The Surface Water Program is responsible for ensuring Idaho's streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands meet their beneficial uses and Idaho water quality standards.  

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