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Watch out for toxic bacteria in our rivers


Watch out for toxic bacteria in our rivers
For immediate release:  Friday 14 November 2008
Environment Bay of Plenty scientists have started taking samples from rivers, lakes and popular swimming spots as part of its annual water quality monitoring programme for the warmer months.
The programme runs from October until the end of autumn to ensure Bay of Plenty residents and visitors can enjoy our waterways safely.  Residents and visitors are reminded to keep an eye out for signs of dark brown mats of bacteria in our rivers.
During Spring and summer a toxic bacteria, called phormidium, forms black or brown mats. The mats look like moss but with a more glossy appearance.
If these mats are dislodged they can float to the surface where they may come into contact with people swimming or paddling. The toxic bacteria in the mats can cause nausea and vomiting. Toddlers and dogs are particularly vulnerable as they often play in shallow water. Toddlers are also likely to put things in their mouths.
Last summer there was a series of dog deaths in New Zealand caused by phormidium. In the Eastern Bay of Plenty the toxic bacteria led to health warnings advising people not to swim in the Waimana, Rangitaiki and Whakatane rivers.
Environment Bay of Plenty Freshwater Ecologist Matt Bloxham said the mats could start forming in the Eastern Bay’s rivers from November onwards.
“Although we have had a wet winter, we haven’t had enough rain in the past three to four weeks to flush the rivers through and we are expecting a dry summer,” Mr Bloxham explained. “As a result there is a risk of phormidium growing in the Bay of Plenty’s rivers this summer and we urge people to be alert.”
Mr Bloxham said the Western Bay of Plenty’s rivers were checked by Environment Bay of Plenty scientists last summer for signs of the bacteria but no evidence of it was found.
Environment Bay of Plenty scientists will be monitoring the worst affected rivers in the Bay of Plenty for signs of the bacteria over the coming weeks. They will work with district and city councils, as well as Toi Te Ora- Public Health to monitor the region’s rivers and lakes over summer.
Residents and visitors are advised to look out for warning signs at popular swimming spots and to check the latest Toi Te Ora - Public Health advisories.
You can also keep track of water quality by visiting www.envbop.govt.nz. Type ‘swimming water quality’ into the search engine or click on the water icon on the homepage.

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