Blooms found at various locations on the Ohio River
The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) have issued a harmful algal bloom (HAB) recreational public health advisory for the Ohio River from the McAlpine Dam near Louisville to the Greenup Dam near Greenup, KY. An advisory is also being issued for Briggs Lake near Russellville.
A HAB recreational public health advisory means algal toxins have been found at various locations along the river and within the lake. Swimming, wading, and water activities that create spray are not recommended in areas impacted by HABs. Water ingested during recreational activities in this area may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Skin, eye, and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties, skin rashes, as well as numbness or tingling of limbs may also occur after contact.
Observations and sample results from September 25, 2019 indicated the presence of a toxin-producing bloom on the Ohio River near downtown Cincinnati. Toxin results from this area were well above the advisory threshold. Toxin-producing blooms that exceeded the advisory threshold were also identified on the Ohio River near Dover, KY (Mason Co.), and near Towhead Island in Louisville, KY, and additionally at Briggs Lake in Logan Co. Currently, HABs are present in patchy areas along the extent of the Ohio River under this advisory. However, bloom conditions can change rapidly. See the recommended guidelines below to minimize exposure to HABs.
This is a recreational advisory only. There have been no detected microcystin toxins reported in the finished, treated water from public water systems which draw from the river. Precautions are being taken to monitor river water at public water supply intakes. DOW will continue to sample and monitor the public water systems’ raw water and finished, treated water while harmful algal bloom conditions continue.
Blue-green algae occur naturally in the environment and are a vital part of the ecosystem. Harmful algal blooms arise when there are excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures, and low-flow or low-water conditions. The more typical green algae, which do not produce toxins, come in many forms and may appear as underwater moss or stringy mats. Harmful algal blooms, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown.
The following guidelines are recommended to avoid exposure to HABs:
- Individuals should avoid direct contact, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving, and water skiing, with affected water that has a visible bloom, unusual color, or algal scum.
- People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with HABs. Children may be particularly at risk.
- If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your health care provider.
- If fishing in affected waters, fish fillets (not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, potable water.
- Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with water where HABs are apparent.
If you are concerned that you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to HABs, please see your doctor and call your local health department.
For additional information about harmful algal blooms in Kentucky, please visit the Division of Water’s HAB webpage here.
To see all current HAB advisories in Kentucky, please access the Division of Water’s HAB Viewer at http://watermaps.ky.gov/HABs.
Contact: Robin Hartman at 502-782-8821 or John Mura at 502-782-7023.