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Algal bloom in Lake Forsyth/Te Roto o Wairewa

January 18, 2017

Health Warning - Algal bloom in Lake Forsyth/Te Roto o Wairewa

The Community and Public Health division of Canterbury District Health Board has issued a health warning after potentially toxic blue-green algae (planktonic cyanobacteria) was found in Lake Forsyth/Te Roto o Wairewa.

People and animals, particularly dogs, should avoid Lake Forsyth/Te Roto o Wairewa until the health warning has been lifted.

Dr Ramon Pink Canterbury Medical Officer of Health says the algal bloom can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals; people should avoid contact with the water until further notice.

“Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, and tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms visit your doctor immediately and please let your doctor know if you have had contact with the lake water,” Dr Pink says.

“No one should drink the water from the lake at any time. Boiling the water does not remove the toxin.”

The type of cyanobacteria currently present in high concentrations is Anabaena, which typically forms green globules that float in the water column.

“Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats should be taken to a vet immediately,” Dr Pink says.

Consumption of fish and shellfish should also be avoided because they can concentrate toxins, he says.

“If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.”

Environment Canterbury monitors the lake weekly during summer and the public will be advised of any changes in water quality that are of public health significance.

Facts about cyanobacteria:

• The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months.

• If the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it, avoid all contact.

• Not all cyanobacterial blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the blooms disappear.

• Cyanobacterial concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions (e.g. wind). If a health warning is in place avoid contact with the water.

For further information visit https://www.ecan.govt.nz/your-region/your-environment/water/swimming-water-quality/

Or contact Community and Public Health on (03) 364 1777.


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