Now that high summer and higher temperatures have arrived, Harmful Algae Blooms (“HABs”) are an increasing threat to recreational and subsistence uses of bodies of fresh- and salt-water. HABs can impact, sometimes fatally, harvesting of water- and shoreline-dwelling animals and plants, drinking, swimming, wading, and boating. Pets and children are particularly vulnerable because they can rush into water before you even realize they’re out of the car. The Oregon Health Authority advises,
“Don’t go into water that looks foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish red. A good rule of thumb for you and your pet is: When in Doubt, Stay Out!” (https://www.oregon.gov/OHA/PH/HealthyEnvironments/Recreation/HarmfulAlgaeBlooms/pages/index.aspx).
Bear in mind that most waters are not monitored for toxicity, so the lack of a warning sign is not enough to assure safe use. The following websites provide information on identifying and responding to toxic waters and their impacts, and include alerts on the few, most popular, waters that are monitored and posted:
- Shellfish Poisoning:
- Alaska – https://aoos.org/alaska-hab-network/,
- California – https://mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/index.html,
- Idaho – https://www.deq.idaho.gov/water-quality/surface-water/recreation-health-advisories/cyanobacteria-harmful-algal-blooms/,
- Montana – https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/Epidemiology/hab,
- Oregon – https://www.oregon.gov/OHA/PH/HealthyEnvironments/Recreation/HarmfulAlgaeBlooms/pages/index.aspx,
- Washington – https://www.nwtoxicalgae.org/.
The Washington website is also available in Spanish, Somali, and Viet. As an example of a posted warning, Odell Lake near Willamette Pass, between Eugene and Klamath Falls OR, has recently been posted; see the Oregon website above.