High Toxin Levels Found at Wickiup Reservoir in Deschutes County

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Article Courtesy of Oregon Outdoors|The Democrat Herald|September 20, 2014| Shared as Educational Material

The Oregon Health Authorityhas  issued a health advisory due to high levels of blue-green algae in Wickiup Reservoir, located 40 miles southwest of Bend off South Century Drive in Deschutes County.

Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of very high levels of cyanotoxins produced by the blue-green algae. These dangerous toxin concentrations in the water can be harmful to humans and animals.

Exposure to bacterial toxins can happen through accidental swallowing, which may produce such symptoms as numbness, tingling, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting; inhalation of water droplets, which can lead to breathing problems, sneezing, coughing or runny nose; and skin contact, which can cause skin irritation, including a rash. Symptoms usually occur in less than 24 hours. Drinking water directly from Wickiup Reservoir is especially dangerous.

Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. Dogs in particular can quickly experience symptoms of toxin exposure and can die within an hour.

The advisory was issued Friday. The public will be advised when the concern no longer exists.

Oregon Public Health officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.

People who draw in-home water directly from Wickiup Reservoir are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective at removing algae toxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier.

Oregon health officials recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.

Public health officials also advise that people not eat freshwater clams or mussels from affected water, and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to visit Wickiup Reservoir and enjoy activities such as camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk.

For local information about water quality or blue-green algae sampling, contact the the Deschutes National Forest Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District at 541-383-4000.

For health information, to report human or pet illnesses due to blooms, or to ask questions about a news release, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0400. For information about advisories issued or lifted for the season, call the Oregon Public Health toll-free information line at 1-877-290-6767 or visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website at www.healthoregon.org/hab and select “Algae Bloom Advisories.”

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