Officials urge caution at Brownlee Reservoir, from Wolf Creek to Canyon Creek

Officials test for blue-green algae, a type of naturally occurring bacteria, on Brownlee Reservoir in this photo from July of 2017.

If you’re heading to Brownlee Reservoir, officials are urging caution in some areas.

High levels of cyanobacteria — what is commonly known as blue-green algae — has caused a health advisory for 15 river miles of the reservoir on the Snake River, according to a news release on Monday from the Bureau of Land Management - Vale District.

On Tuesday, that advisory was expanded to include the area near Mountain Man Resort, including from Wolf Creek on the Idaho side to Canyon Creek on the Oregon side.

The BLM, Southwest Idaho District Health, Idaho Power and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued the joint advisory Monday afternoon, and are asking people (pets, too) to avoid contact with the water and avoid water activities from the Vale BLM’s Canyon Creek/Swede’s Landing Area to Idaho Power’s Woodhead Park, until the threat has passed.

As usual this time of year, warm weather has spurred the growth of the toxin-producing algae bloom, which can pose risks to people, pets and livestock. Individuals with liver or kidney damage are at an increased risk of illness.

Blooms can vary in appearance, according to the advisory, and may look like mats, foam, spilled paint or surface scum and may have a foul odor.

Officials are urging recreationists near or around Brownlee Reservoir to take the following precautions:

• Avoid swimming, wading, or other activities. Take extra precautions to ensure children, pets, and livestock are not exposed to the water;

• Do not drink or cook with water containing a bloom. Boiling and filtering the water can increase the risk;

• Wash your hands thoroughly after handling fish caught in water experiencing a bloom. Cyanotoxins can accumulate in fish and the risk to people is being researched. Any fish caught should be cleaned and washed thoroughly in uncontaminated water and any internal organs disposed of before consumption. If people choose to eat fish from this area, filet the fish and remove all of the fat, skin, and organs before cooking;

• Clean with potable water as soon as possible if water contacts skin or pet fur.

Symptoms of cyanotoxin exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and/or wheezing. More severe symptoms affecting the liver and nervous system may result from ingesting water. If symptoms persist, consult a health-care provider.

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