Harmful algae blooms discovered in multiple Sonoma County rivers

By Katherine Minkiewicz, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, June 23, 2021

toxic algae

Sonoma County has posted “Toxic Algae Alert” signs on Salmon Creek and “Check for algae” educational signs on the Russian and Gualala Rivers after multiple harmful algae blooms were found. (SoCoNews archive)s

The California State Water Resources Control Board and the Sonoma County Department of Environmental Health Services are warning boaters, fishers and swimmers to be cautious after multiple harmful algae blooms (HABs) were discovered in multiple Sonoma County rivers.

The board and Sonoma County staff responded to recent sightings of suspected HABs in the Russian River, Salmon Creek and Gualala River.

According to a joint water board and county press release, lab results confirmed that potentially toxic algal mats are growing on the bottom of rivers and may detach and become stranded on banks.

Because children and dogs are most susceptible to serious health impacts from HABs, it is recommended that they avoid touching any suspicious looking agal material found in rivers or along river banks.

Based on state guidance, the county has posted “Toxic Algae Alert” signs on Salmon Creek and “Check for algae” educational signs on the Russian and Gualala Rivers.

Algae, including blue-green algae called cyanobacteria, can be found in many water environments such as the Russian River.

When high temperatures and increased nutrient levels occur in the water, blooms of algae can grow more rapidly.

According to the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Environmental Health & Safety, most algae is harmless; however, some species that are classified as HABs, produce toxins that can harm the health of humans and animals.

The California State Water Board urges river, lake and stream users to practice safe water habits:

  • Heed all instructions on posted advisories.
  • Avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore.
  • Keep an eye on children and pets.
  • If you think a harmful algal bloom or toxic algal mats are present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water or eat scum/algal mats on the shore.
  • Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking.
  • Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after water play.
  • If you catch fish, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking.
  • Avoid eating shellfish if you think a harmful algal bloom is present.

Seek medical treatment immediately if you think any person, pet or livestock has become sick after going in the water, alert the medical professional to the possible contact with cyanobacteria and be sure to contact your local county public health department.

The county and the state water board will continue to regularly monitor the areas for HABs and will provide updates on the California HAB Reports Web Map.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org