Pet owners should keep animals away from any algal blooms this Labor Day, the State Water Board is warning the public ahead of the long weekend.
So far this year, six people have become sick and 12 animals have become ill or died from harmful algal blooms in California in 2018, a spokesperson confirmed.
“With many swimmers and boaters expected at the state’s lakes, streams and reservoirs this Labor Day weekend, the State Water Board is reminding the public to be mindful of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and to practice ‘Healthy Water Habits,’ such as keeping pets away, if they see one,” the agency announced Friday.
The California Water Board lists eight steps on its website under its ‘Healthy Water Habits’ checklist, including following all posted advisories, avoiding algae in water and onshore, not eating shellfish where algal blooms are present and not using the water for cooking. Do not let pets drink the water, its website states.
The council said spotting a harmful algal bloom isn’t always as obvious as one might expect.
“Sometimes the bloom is easily visible, forming a ‘scum’ or discoloration on the water surface,” the agency said. “Other times, it is less visible floating beneath the surface or on the bottom of a water body.”
To protect animals and people from getting sick, the California State and Regional Water Boards conducted targeted sampling at some of the state’s most visited public waterways, last week.
They created this interactive map color-coded by the advisory level recommended. Recommended advisory levels are based on cyanotoxin testing results and/or visual indicators.
No public waterways in the San Diego area were tested. However, nearby Lake Elsinore received a “Danger” advisory level in four testing locations, which means the Water Board recommends no swimming and no direct water contact.
To spot a harmful algal bloom, the state board provided this visual guide. Typically rooted plants are non-toxic algae, but scum or bubbling or spit-like floating foam can be harmful to humans and plants. Harmful algal blooms can also have a distasteful odor.
Algae and cyanobacteria have existed for billions of years as essential components of freshwater ecosystems, the agency said.
But under certain conditions, especially like those experienced this summer in Southern California, such as particularly warm weather and stagnant water flows, they can multiply very rapidly creating toxic “blooms,” that pose health risks to humans and animals.
Symptoms can include skin and throat irritations and respiratory irritations. Pet owners are advised to call their