Maitland council has issued a warning after blue-green algae levels have increased at Rathluba lagoon to high alert while Telarah Lagoon and Walka Water Works remain at high alert.
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 looks like a thick paint on the water’s surface or small green floating dots.
Council’s development and environment manager David Simm said caution should be used at any waterbody, particularly dams.
Blue-green algae may cause severe stomach upsets, nausea and skin irritation in both people and animals. It also may contain toxins.
“Blue-green algae can be a serious environmental and human health problem, with the release of toxins and skin irritants,” Mr Simm said.
“Domestic pets and livestock should also be prevented from coming into contact with the water.”
Scums are normally green or blue-green in colour and have a distinctive earthy smell.
Current high temperatures, low dam levels and high nutrient levels have encouraged the growth of blue-green algae.
With these conditions all dams and waterways have the potential to have algal blooms grow overnight.
“Once a bloom has developed, there isn’t a great deal authorities can do to reverse the situation except wait for a climatic change,” Mr Simm said.
“Council will monitor the lagoons at Walka Water Works, Telarah and Rathluba for blue-green algae growth over summer.
If people believe they or their animals have been affected by blue-green algae they should seek medical attention. Boiling the water does not remove the toxins produced by the algae.
To help reduce the likelihood of a bloom occurring in one of Maitland’s water bodies this summer residents should reduce the amount of nutrients going into local waterways by washing cars on the grass or at a car wash, using a broom instead of a hose to clear up leaves, clean out gutters regularly, and be responsible in the application of fertilisers.
It is important to report suspected blue-green algal blooms in local waterways by emailing RACC@waternsw.com.au with details and any available photos of the suspected bloom.
Up to date information on current algal blooms is available by phoning 1800 999 457.