Late summer is the “bloom” time for harmful cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, and some of Virginia’s ponds and streams are under advisories, the state Department of Health says.
From the Flannagan Reservoir in Dickenson County to parts of Lake Anna, you check where advisories have been posted here.
“Be aware of algae blooms and avoid water that smells, is discolored or where there are dead fish present,” the state warns. You can report blooms and fish kills here.
A Wilmington, N.C., couple who lost three dogs last week hours after playing in a pond contaminated with the algae have drawn national attention to the dangers the bacteria pose to pets.
“It is the most horrific death that you could ever experience. Our dogs did not die peacefully,” said Melissa Martin, the dogs’ owner, says in a video posted by USA Today. “That water was completely clear.”
Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms found naturally in all types of water, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The blooms create cyanotoxins, which the CDC says “are among the most powerful natural poisons known” that can sicken people, pets and other animals. There are “no remedies to counteract the effects” and it’s impossible to tell if a bloom has toxins by looking at it. The blooms themselves can be tough to see.
“They sometimes stay below the water’s surface, they sometimes float to the surface,” the CDC says. “Some cyanobacteria blooms can look like foam, scum, or mats, particularly when the wind blows them toward a shoreline. The blooms can be blue, bright green, brown, or red.”
The CDC also says climate change can make the blooms worse.