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.
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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.