Nature enthusiasts, anglers and pet owners should take extra precautions while visiting the great outdoors, as blue-green algae comes closer to home.
In recent weeks, blue-green algae – or cyanobacteria – has been confirmed at Oregon Bar in the Auburn State Recreation Area, Mooney Ridge in the Folsom State Recreation area, Big Bear Lake and upstream of New Melones Lake.
California Water Boards and partnered agencies conducted tests in varying areas ahead of Labor Day weekend, finding negative test results at most of the sites. However, a caution advisory was issued for Horseshoe Bend above Highway 49 near New Melones Lake, a popular day trip destination.
Several other areas tested around New Melones – Day Use Swim Area, Glory Hole Recreation Area and boat launch, Mark Twain Day Use Area, the mouth of Soldier’s Gulch below the Highway 49 bridge, Tuttle Town Recreation Area at Eagle Point and at Manzanita Lower Loop – currently have no advisories.
Additionally, the State Water Resources Control Board and Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board found the harmful algae in Big Bear Lake, extending from North Shore Drive about half of a mile west of the Big Bear Solar Observatory and on the western side of the Stanfield Cutoff.
In July, the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River, upstream of New Melones tested positive for the harmful cyanobacteria. With rising public concerns, Calaveras County Water District collected water samples from all of their water sources, including the wastewater storage pond on Sandalwood Drive in Forest Meadows. All of the tests were negative for cyanobacteria, but CCWD noted there have been non-harmful algal blooms in the storage pond they are taking steps to mitigate.
“Because there was so much concern, we took some samples to test,” said CCWD External Affairs Manager Joel Metzger.
The Amador Water Agency also conducted tests at various locations within their system, finding negative results, as well. Much like CCWD, the AWA has had other algal growth and continues to monitor the water system for any changes. California State Water Resources Control Board researchers believe rising temperatures and climate change are partially to blame for the increase in harmful algal blooms.
Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to dogs and humans, particularly children, causing skin, eyes, throat, nose or respiratory irritation in humans. Animals exposed to the toxins may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abnormal liver function, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, muscle twitching and death.
Local veterinarian, Doctor Kyle Billuni, at Upper Ridge Veterinary Clinic in Pine Grove, stated that there are steps pet owners can take if their furry friends are exposed. If your pet isn’t showing signs of poisoning, but you know they have ingested the toxin, you can induce vomiting to expel as much of the poison as possible. However, if they are already showing signs, the focus of care becomes more about dealing with the symptoms.
“It’s not a great prognosis when you’re seeing signs,” said Dr. Billuni. “It kind of depends on how much they’ve ingested and how bad the damage is.”
The bacteria can be found in fresh, estuarine or marine waters, come in multiple different colors – green, white, red, brown – and may even look like thick paint floating on top of the water. However, the harmful algae can also form on the bottom of waterbodies or at varying depths. The CWRCB recommends anyone visiting the outdoors be mindful of algae and scum in and around waterways.
They also suggest lake-goers keep a watchful eye on children and pets, don’t let them drink or play in water you suspect cyanobacteria may be present in and avoid using the water to cook with. If you are out fishing, clean your catch with fresh, clean water, avoid eating any shellfish you believe may have the bacteria present and seek medical attention immediately if you think you have been exposed.