20 January 2017

Algae bloom warning for Canning River area

Members of the public have been warned to avoid recreational activities in the Canning River near Kent Street Weir, Wilson due to elevated levels of potentially toxic blue-green algae.

Department of Health Water Quality Branch Manager Richard Theobald said the blue-green algae bloom (species Dolichospermum circinale) was characterised by a green discolouration in the water and was capable of producing several types of toxin.

Ingesting this water could cause gastro-intestinal illness, affect nerve tissue and cause liver damage. One of the toxins also bio accumulates in shellfish, which if consumed by humans can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning, and in extreme cases cause respiratory arrest. Contact with the water can cause skin irritation leading to dermatitis.

“Recreational activities involving contact with the water, such as swimming, wading, fishing, shellfish collection and canoeing in these waters should be avoided,” Mr Theobald said.

“Pets and livestock should also be kept away from the water during the bloom.”

Mr Theobald said the City of Canning had erected health warning signs at the main access points to the river at Kent Street Weir.

Anyone who comes in contact with algal-affected water should rinse it off with clean water and seek medical attention if they feel unwell.

“As a general rule people should avoid swimming in water that is discoloured or has scum on the surface, and not collect wild shellfish because its safety cannot be guaranteed,” he said.

Mr Theobald said commercially available shellfish (e.g. mussels) from supermarkets and other commercial outlets in Western Australia were not affected because they are managed by a strict quality-assurance program to ensure they are safe for human consumption.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor the bloom and provide advice on algal levels to the Department of Health.

For further information please refer to the weekly Microalgae Activity Report on the Department of Parks and Wildlife website (external site), or refer to algal bloom information found on the HealthyWA website (external site).

ENDS

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