Sunday, June 23, 2024

Toxic algae warning for Central Otago

Otago Regional Council’s environmental monitoring team have collected samples at Butchers Dam in Central Otago that show the presence of cyanobacteria (toxic algae).

Council staff are waiting for results from further testing to confirm the alert level but have warned against water activities by the public.

“Given the staff observations [on Friday], the previous history at the site and the continuous presence of cyanobacteria scums over the last week or so we decided the warning was warranted,” says council Scientist, Water Quality and programme lead, Helen Trotter. 

“This kind of algae is potentially toxic (and can be deadly) to both humans and animals. Dogs should be kept on a leash to steer them away from the water, and those visiting Butchers Dam for recreation should stay out of the water until it is confirmed safe to swim here.”

Warning signs have been erected in the area to make visitors and residents aware that the water at Butchers Dam is unsafe for swimming, drinking and it is recommended to keep pets and stock away. 

Algal blooms and pea soup-like appearance that can suggest toxic algae is present.

Council’s recreational water monitoring programme begins today, and will test popular swimming sites to make sure water is safe for swimming.

This summer ORC will test 33 swimming sites weekly for bacteria and 11 sites for toxic algae.

The latest water quality results are then posted to lawa.org.nz/swim (Land Air Water Aotearoa), a handy resource for New Zealanders across the country to check the quality of their favourite local waterway.

“Every year ORC’s water scientists check popular swimming spots around Otago to see if these rivers, lakes and streams are safe to swim in.”

“While we monitor water quality weekly at a number of Otago’s most popular sites it is important people remember that water quality and conditions can change quickly especially after rain. That’s why wherever you chose to swim it’s always advised to wait at least two days before swimming after heavy or prolonged rain,” says Ms Trotter.  

The Otago programme, which started in 2006, runs during the summer months from 1 December to 31 March.

To find the latest toxic algae sightings, go to: www.orc.govt.nz/toxicalgaesightings.

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