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Harmful algal bloom recreational advisory issued for Ohio River and tributaries

Advisory stretches from W. Va. border to Markland Dam

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 11, 2015) — The Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) are re-issuing a harmful algal bloom (HAB) recreational advisory for the Ohio River, extending the advisory downstream from the West Virginia state line to the Markland Dam located 3.5 miles downstream from Warsaw.

algWater swallowed during recreational activities in this body of water may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Skin, eye and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties may also occur after contact.

On Aug. 31, KDOW received a report of an algal bloom on the Ohio River near Greenup. Subsequent sampling of the river indicated higher levels of microcystin toxins existed in some areas of the Ohio River from Ashland to the Meldahl Dam. KDOW issued a recreational advisory on Sept. 4 from the West Virginia line to Meldahl Dam.

Since that time, conditions favorable for the development of HABs have persisted throughout the river basin, and additional HABs have formed further downstream. Analysis results received today indicate the need to extend the Ohio River recreational advisory beyond the Meldahl Dam to the Markland Dam area.

The KDPH agrees that the HAB advisory should be extended because of the current risk for elevated levels of microcystin toxins in the Ohio River and tributaries.

There have been no detected microcystin toxins reported in the finished, treated water from public water systems which draw from the river, but precautions are being taken to treat the raw water. The drinking water plants which draw from the river are optimizing their treatment to address the bacteria in the raw water, including using activated carbon to provide additional treatment.

KDOW will continue to sample and monitor the public water systems’ raw water and finished, treated water during the harmful algal bloom. This is a recreation advisory only.

Blue-green algae occur naturally in the environment and are a vital part of the ecosystem.  Harmful algal blooms arise when there are excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures and low-flow or low-water conditions. The more typical green algae, which do not produce toxins, come in many forms and may appear as underwater moss or stringy mats.

Blue-green algae, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies or bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown.

Guidelines to avoid exposure to HABs:

  • Individuals should avoid direct contact with affected water that has unusual color or where blue-green bacteria have been identified, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving and water skiing.
  • People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with HABs. Children may be particularly sensitive.
  • If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your health care provider.
  • If fishing in affected waters, fish fillets (not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, non-lake water.
  • Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with water where HAB is apparent.

Anyone concerned about symptoms as a result of exposure to HABs should see a doctor and call their local health department.

For additional information about this advisory, contact Andrea Keatley at the Kentucky Division of Water at 502-564-3410 or Justin T. Carey, Division of Public Health Protection and Safety, Department for Public Health, at (502) 564-7398. http://water.ky.gov/waterquality/pages/HABS.aspx.