Toxic Algae: What it is and how to prevent it
In peak algae season all over the country, it is not uncommon for bodies of water to have at least a little bit of algae on them. High temperatures are perfect growing weather for algae. Algae is a normal part of a water ecosystem, but when algae overgrows rapidly, it can become dangerous. Toxic algae can occur in all 50 states.
What is toxic algae?
When algae experiences an overgrowth, this is called an algae bloom. Some large algae blooms contain toxins that are harmful to humans. Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are the harmful type of algae blooms. Algae blooms can occur in salt and fresh water and can be toxic to humans and animals alike. These blooms happen in slow moving water, in high-sunlight areas, and in waters with excess nutrients that algae like to feed off of (nitrogen and phosphorus).
An algae bloom can look like paint on the water or like scum. These can vary in color, from green, red, blue and brown. It will most often smell foul as well.
Harmful effects of toxic algae:
Animals and humans can experience negative side effects of toxic algae exposure. Irritation or rashes can happen, along with vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, and more. In pets that have been exposed, lethargy, difficulty breathing, vomiting may occur. If symptoms are left untreated, severe illness or even death may occur. If you or a pet is exposed to toxic algae, wash off and monitor for signs of exposure for the following few hours. Seek medical attention if symptoms are occurring.
If you see toxic algae, report it to your local authorities and stay away from the water. Don’t allow kids or pets in the water.
How to prevent and treat growth:
Since large algae blooms happen due to conditions such as ample sunlight, excess nutrients, and stagnant water, there are a few things you should consider doing to prevent prime algae overgrowth.
1. Treat existing algae with an algaecide, such as Mizzen® algaecide from Lake Restoration.
2. Use a nutrient reducer, such as SparKlear® or PhosControl® to rid your water of excess nutrients that aid in rapid algae growth. Make sure grass clippings and leaves aren’t getting into your water (this creates more excess nutrients in your pond).
3. Use an aerating fountain, like the Vitaflume® floating fountain from Lake Restoration. The fountain will help keep water moving and gas exchanged between the water and the air.