Algal blooms prompt health warnings

Blue-green algae in a N.C. creek
Blue-green algae in a N.C. creek N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Hot weather has created algal blooms on the far ends of North Carolina that may be toxic.

State officials warn people to avoid the blooms that have been found in Waterville Lake, in Western North Carolina, and in the Albemarle Sound and Chowan River on the coast.

Biologists identified a species of blue-green algae in Waterville Lake on Monday. The blooms can be harmful if the algae produces microcystin, a toxin that in high doses can damage the liver.

Tests are underway to learn whether the toxin is present.

On the coast, the Division of Water Resources found another species of blue-green algae after getting complaints of “smelly, green pea soup” in Albemarle Sound and Chowan River.

It’s unclear whether that species can emit toxins, but analysis is underway.

Authorities have had no reports of health problems from the blooms, but they’re advising people to avoid contact with it. Children and pets should not be allowed to swim in water that looks very green, discolored or scummy.

Algal blooms can also consume oxygen in water and kill fish. Fish kills have been reported in the lower Chowan River, Blounts Bay and Pamlico River.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender