The Oregon Health Authority is issuing a health advisory today based on visual
observation of scum on
the Willamette River, extending from the southern end of Ross Island downstream
to the Fremont Bridge in Multnomah County.
monitoring is underway to determine the species and amount of blue-green algae
cells present in the river. The type of species in the bloom will help to
identify whether the cells present are those with the potential to produce
toxins harmful to humans and animals.
The Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality is testing water samples taken from the river. People
should avoid skin contact with water, as well as swallowing or inhaling water
droplets, until results of tests are available. Drinking water directly from the
Willamette River could
be especially dangerous.
Exposure to toxins from blue-green
algae can produce symptoms of numbness,
tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems,
and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness,
diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if
they persist or worsen. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure
because of their size and level of activity.
The public will be advised when
the concern no longer exists.
Oregon Public Health officials
advise people living along the river that toxins cannot be removed by boiling,
filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.
People who draw in-home water
directly from the Willamette River in
the area affected by the advisory are advised to use an alternative
water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective at
removing algae toxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae
toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water
systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their
Oregon health officials recommend
that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present
remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, because toxins are more likely
to collect in these tissues.
Public health officials also
advise that people not eat freshwater clams or mussels from affected water, and
that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the
harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be
eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.
With proper precautions to avoid
water contact, people are encouraged to visit the Willamette River and enjoy
activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing and bird watching.
Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which
could lead to inhalation risk.
For local information about water
quality or blue-green algae sampling, contact the Department of Environmental
Quality at 503-693-5723.
For health information, to report
human or pet illnesses due to blooms, or to ask questions about a news release,
contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0400. For information about advisories
issued or lifted for the season, call the Oregon Public Health toll-free
information line at 1-877-290-6767 or visit the Harmful Algae Bloom
website at www.healthoregon.org/hab and select “Algae Bloom Advisories.”
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