Sampling undertaken by Maitland Council this week has indicated that blue-green algae alert levels are at high alert at Walka Water Works and Telarah Lagoon, and at amber alert at Rathluba Lagoon.
Blue-green algae are microscopic cells that grow naturally in Australian fresh and saline waters.
However, when conditions are favourable for algae growth blooms can occur, which can be seen as a thick paint like accumulation on the water’s surface or as small green floating dots.
Scums are normally green or blue-green in colour and have a distinctive earthy smell.
Along with the warming temperatures, high nutrient levels, slow flow, and low wind also encourage the growth of blue-green algae.
Council’s executive manager planning environment and lifestyle Bernie Mortomore said, “Algal levels can increase quickly and once a bloom has developed, there isn’t a great deal authorities can do to reverse the situation except wait for the favorable growing conditions to dissipate.
“Council will monitor the lagoons at Walka Water Works, Telarah and Rathluba for blue-green algae growth over summer as blue-green algae can be a serious environmental and human health problem, with the release of toxins and skin irritants. Domestic pets and livestock should also be prevented from coming into contact with the water.”
Blue-green algae may cause severe stomach upsets, nausea and skin irritation in both people and animals.
Boiling the water does not remove the toxins produced by the algae. If people believe they or their animals have been affected by blue-green algae they should seek medical attention.
To help reduce the likelihood of a bloom occurring in one of Maitland’s water bodies this summer you should reduce the amount of nutrients going into local waterways by washing your car on the grass or at a car wash, using a broom not a hose to clear up leaves, cleaning out your gutter regularly, and being responsible in the application of fertilisers.
It is important to report suspected blue-green algal blooms in local waterways by phoning 131 555. Up to date information on current algal blooms is available by phoning 1800 999 457.