Be aware of fresh water algae and bacterial blooms

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 4:16 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - With the weather heating up, people across our hometowns are itching to get to rivers or lakes.

The Virginia Department of Health tracks algae blooms and cyanobacteria across the state, in fresh water and at the beaches. The department will issue advisories if a bloom could harm people or pets.

“So in general, the health department likes to recommend the public to avoid swimming within about three days after a water event, or a precipitation rainfall event,” Margaret Smigo said. Smigo is the Waterborne Hazards Program Coordinator for VDH.

Smigo encourages people to stay away from water that looks viscous, or that has a visible film on top.

VDH has a section of its website where people can check on current advisories and reports.

Per the map findings May 22, residents had reported a potential bloom at Smith Mountain Lake. VDH says staff did not find “conditions that indicated a bloom was present. Weather and other environmental factors can cause rapid changes in water quality.”

Since 2018, there has been a cyanobacteria bloom at Lake Anna in Northern Virginia. The May 22 map explains that when samples were collected, there were low concentrations of bacteria at that time.

“You know, I’d say by and large, most of our waterways are what we would call safe for you and I to go swimming in. But what’s safe for someone with a healthy immune system is not safe for someone who has a compromised immune system,” Smigo said.

If you suspect an algal or bacterial bloom, report it by clicking here.