Blue-green algae in SA section of River Murray non-toxic

21-04-2016

Blue-green algae in SA section of River Murray non-toxic

People living in and visiting the South Australian Riverland are advised the blue-green algae in the River Murray does not represent a health hazard, but should be avoided.

Samples of the bloom collected earlier this week have been extensively tested for the presence of a range of known toxins and none were detected.

Algal blooms in the Murray Darling system upstream of South Australia are commonly reported at this time of year and are being monitored.

Ongoing monitoring by SA Water has detected blue-green algae from around Lake Victoria to approximately Berri.

DEWNR's Manager of Water Resource Operations Jarrod Eaton said the presence of algae is mainly due to low rainfall, low river flows and ongoing warm weather conditions.

"This algal bloom is separate to the bloom being reported upstream in Victoria and is also a different species of algae," Mr Eaton said.

"The algal species that resulted in red alerts upstream of the South Australian border have not been detected in any sampling in the River Murray in South Australia to date.

"The algae being seen around parts of the Riverland can produce a strong odour, but does not represent a threat to the use of River Murray water for irrigation.

"While recreational activities are still largely unaffected, as a precautionary measure, we would encourage the public to avoid contact with water showing obvious signs of scums."

SA Health’s Principal Water Quality Adviser Dr David Cunliffe said people can continue to use the River Murray, but are advised to avoid contact with any areas of obvious green discoloured water or scums.

"Non-toxic blue green algae can cause skin irritation in about 10 per cent of the population," Mr Cunliffe said.

"Anyone who develops a skin irritation from contact with blue green algae should shower immediately and symptoms will subside."

SA Water’s Senior Manager of Research and Innovation, Mike Burch said all algae are always closely monitored.

"Treatment processes at the water treatment plants in the region which take water directly from the river, have been adjusted to deal with any potential issues," Mr Burch said.

"The bloom can effectively be removed via our treatment processes.

"As with any detection of a potential water quality event, we have also increased the frequency of our sampling in the river.

"Algal samples are collected at each of the raw water offtakes and we are continuing to monitor water quality at strategic upstream locations.

"This helps to provide advance warning of changes in water quality that may impact our water treatment plants or other river users."

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