Agencies issue health advisory for toxic algae bloom in Hells Canyon Reservoir

This photo shows a blue-green algae at Brownlee Reservoir in August of 2017. 

HELLS CANYON RESERVOIR — Southwest District Health and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality are issuing a health advisory for Hells Canyon Reservoir from Copper Creek down to Hells Canyon Dam, urging residents to use caution when recreating in or near the water.

Recent samples taken from the water body indicate high concentrations of toxin-producing cyanobacteria, which can be harmful to people, pets, and livestock. Those with liver or kidney damage are at an increased risk of illness.

Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies. When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water. Blooms can vary in appearance, and may look like mats, foam, spilled paint, or surface scum, and have a foul odor.

Recreationists near or in Hells Canyon Reservoir are urged to take precautions while the advisory is in effect.

This includes avoiding swimming, wading or other activities, and ensuring children, pets and livestock are not exposed to the water.

Drinking or cooking with water containing a bloom is not advised, as boiling and filtering the water can increase the risk.

Washing skin or pet fur after coming in contact with water with bloom is advised, and as cyanotoxins can accumulate in fish, any caught should be cleaned and washed thoroughly in uncontaminated water and internal organs should be disposed of. If people choose to eat fish from this area, filet the fish and remove all of the fat, skin, and organs before cooking, reads information from the District Health office.

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. Those with symptoms that persist are urged to consult a health-care provider.

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