NCDEQ urges residents to be on the lookout for discolored water, report algal blooms

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 10:22 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Resources released a statement on Thursday, April 28, asking residents to be on the lookout for and to avoid discolored water and algal blooms.

According to the statement, there have been six reports of potential blooms this spring already, with two of those confirmed to have contained a type of algae, cyanobacteria, that can be harmful to people and pets.

“Algal blooms can appear as surface scums (which look like spilled paint and can be bright green, red, brown, or blue), algal mats (dense, macroscopic growths that float on the water surface) or discoloration throughout the water column,” states the release from NCDEQ. “Blooms tend to move due to wind and wave action. Decaying algae may produce a strong, foul odor that can impact a large area.”

Examples of blooms can be found here.

Certain environmental conditions, such as an increase in nutrients, elevated temperatures, increased sunlight and low or no water flow, can cause the rapid cell growth referred to as blooms.

Certain types of algae can create toxins that can lead to adverse health effects in pets, humans and other aquatic life. Tests must be conducted to determine if Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs, are present in a body of water.

“The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health (DPH) routinely encourages the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and to prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom. Remember: when in doubt, stay out!”

The Division of Water Resources shared these safety guidelines in reference to algal blooms:

  • “Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, blue, discolored, or scummy.
  • Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
  • Avoid handling, cooking, or eating dead fish that may be present.
  • If you come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
  • Use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with an algal bloom.
  • If your child appears ill after being in waters containing an algal bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • If your pet appears to stumble, stagger, or collapse after being in a pond, lake, or river, seek veterinary care immediately.”

For Columbus, New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, algal bloom reports can be made to the NCDEQ Wilmington Regional Office at (910) 796-7215. Residents of Bladen County can contact the Fayetteville Regional Office at (910) 433-3300. Reports can also be submitted online here.

An online dashboard is available to view reported algal bloom events. More information on blooms can be found here, with additional resources about potential health effects available here.