Blue-green algae incident 

Joint statement by NHS Highland and The Highland Council

During this current period of prolonged warm weather, the chance of Blue Green algae (cyanobacteria) affecting water courses, particularly ponds, lochs and canals (as well as rivers), increases significantly. Sometimes the blue green algae can form blooms, which can release toxins into the water.

Contact with blue-green algae can have health effects for humans and animals; the incident is being investigated by Highland Council Environmental Health Department in partnership with NHS Highland Public Health Department and wider colleagues.

Sampling of the water has been undertaken to confirm the presence of blue-green algae. Notices have been posted on the 9th July at the footpath to Moy island on the River Conon warning that contact with the algal scum should be avoided by people and pets. Adjoining landowners and fishing interests have been advised of the situation.

We are also aware of a second possible incident of a dog dying following contact with water. This occurred at Aldourie Bay on the south side of Loch Ness. The case was reported on Thursday 5th July and circumstances of this case are currently being investigated.

Media Briefing Notes

  • Blue-green algae occur naturally in fresh waters in Scotland and throughout the world. They are noticed when their concentrations increase to form ‘blooms’, when they collect on the shore line and when they form scums which can look like blue-green paint. Blue-green algae occurs when temperatures are consistently warmer than usual, or when there is little wind and rain, as has been the case across the Highlands in recent weeks.
  • Contact with blue-green algae can have human and animal health effects. With respect to human health, illnesses including skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and pains in muscles and joints have occurred in some recreational users of water who swallowed or swam through algal scum. It is advised that people avoid contact with the algal scum and the water close to it.
  • The toxins, which may be produced by the algae, are also poisonous to animals and can cause severe illness and death. Farmers and pet-owners should ensure that their animals do not have access to affected waters.
  • The treatment of drinking water supplies removes blue-green algae and additional treatment may be applied to destroy or remove toxins should they arise. The actions currently taken are precautionary.
  • The behaviour of algae is erratic and the level of its toxicity can fluctuate. It can appear one day, be dispersed by the wind and mixing and re-accumulate at any time.
9 Jul 2018
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