North Carolina

Toxic algae found near North Carolina coast, state warns. Keep your kids and pets away

Learn how scientists predict the spread of toxic algae blooms

Harmful algal blooms are blooms of species of algae that can have negative impacts on humans, marine and freshwater environments, and coastal economies. An 'Ocean Today' viday explains how scientists can predict the spread of harmful blooms.
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Harmful algal blooms are blooms of species of algae that can have negative impacts on humans, marine and freshwater environments, and coastal economies. An 'Ocean Today' viday explains how scientists can predict the spread of harmful blooms.

Toxic algae blooms along the Chowan River and the Albemarle Sound in eastern North Carolina could be dangerous for people and pets, the state warns.

“State environmental officials have been monitoring numerous blooms in the Chowan River since May,” the state Department of Environmental Quality said earlier this month. The department said its staff also found another bloom of toxic blue-green algae off a beach in Edenton recently.

Children and dogs are the most vulnerable to the toxins in blue-green algae because they are most likely to swim and play in warm, shallow areas where the algae will concentrate in lakes and rivers.

“Toxins produced by cyanobacteria can affect the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and nervous system of people, pets, livestock and other animals,” state officials warn.

The toxins have killed dogs in North Carolina before, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. “Dogs are especially susceptible to cyanotoxins that attack the nervous system,” according to DHHS.

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The state has been tracking several toxic algae blooms in eastern North Carolina since May. NC DEQ

The Division of Water Resources maintains an interactive online map of algae blooms, which shows seven troublesome areas in recent months on the Chowan River and other rivers off the Albemarle Sound in eastern North Carolina.

According to DHHS, here’s how to keep kids and pets safe from toxic algae blooms:

  • “Keep children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy.
  • “Do not handle or touch large accumulations (“scums” or mats) of algae.
  • “Do not water ski or jet ski over algal mats.
  • “Do not use scummy water for cleaning or irrigation.
  • “If you accidentally come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
  • “If your pet appears to stumble, stagger, or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately.
  • “If your child appears ill after being in waters containing a bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • “If you are unsure whether or not a bloom is present, it is best to stay out of the water.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is testing a water filtration system that helps collect and remove algae blooms. They're hoping to use the system at a larger scale to remove algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
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