Potentially toxic blue-green algae blooms has made its appearance on the Illinois River, state officials confirmed last week. The algal blooms have been directly associated with sickness in people and deaths of dogs in the past.
Last August, a woman’s three dogs died after playing in and near a North Carolina pond within 24-hours due to exposure to Cyanobactria, which can be produced by algae blooms. “The water was crystal clear,” Melissa Martin, the dog’s owner told NPR last August. “A lot of the things that you read say that cyanobacteria or blue-green algae has an appearance or an odor and it had neither.”
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collected the samples in mid-June along the northern bank of the Illinois River at the Starved Rock Lock & Dam. Algal toxins, including cyanobacteria, were not found in the initial testing. The Illinois EPA will continue to conduct additional sampling in the coming weeks to determine if conditions have improved along the Illinois River.
Among those at greatest risk to algal toxins include the very young and elderly along with people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms of exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing. More severe symptoms may result from longer or greater amounts of exposure.
The EPA is telling residents not to let pets drink from water that has spilled, green or blue-green paint like look to it. Water that has surface scums, mats or films or any discoloration should be considered suspicious along with water with greenish globs suspended below the surface.
“If you or your pet have come into contact with water you suspect may have a bloom of blue-green algae, rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible. With all activities that may involve contact with lake or stream water, wash your hands before eating.” The EPA said in a statement.
If you believe you or your pet has come in contact with toxic algal blooms, you can call your healthcare provider, veterinarian, or Illinois Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.