[F]ollowing hot, dry, weather across Cumbria, the Environment Agency have confirmed reports of Blue Green Algae in three locations across the Lake District.
Ullswater, Coniston and Killington Lake have all tested positive for potentially toxic Blue Green Algae which can have a negative effect on the appearance, quality and use of the water.
Throughout the summer months, the Environment Agency test water samples and confirm if Blue Green Algae has been found. They then inform landowners of the blooms, so they can take the necessary steps to warn the public of any potential dangers. This could may be the local authority, or a private landowner.
Jim Ratcliffe from the Environment Agency says: “As always, if people see any environmental impacts due to dry weather, such as fish in distress, or Blue Green Algae, please report it to the Environment Agency incident line on 0800 80 70 60 open 24/7, so we can investigate and take appropriate action to protect people and the environment.
“If our sampling confirms Blue Green Algae is present in a lake or river, we inform the landowner, and they are encouraged to take the necessary steps to inform users of the water, by way of posters, notices or other means.
“The Environment Agency continues to work with water companies, business and farmers across the country to provide advice, helping to balance the needs of water users and minimise impacts on the environment of any dry weather.”
Water bodies affected by Blue Green Algae, or Algal Blooms may be green, blue-green or greenish brown and can produce musty, earthy or grassy odours. Blooms can also cause foaming on the shoreline, which can sometimes confused with sewage pollution. During a bloom, the water also becomes less clear, blocking sunlight and stopping plants in the water from growing.
Blue Green Algae naturally occurs in inland waters, estuaries and the sea. Blooms can form when their numbers become excessive. Once algal numbers are high, the bloom is likely to persist throughout the season, declining only on the onset of winter conditions.
Bloom and scum forming blue-green algae can produce toxins. Toxin producing blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms. These toxins can be harmful to wild animals, farm livestock and domestic pets. In humans, they have been known to cause rashes after skin contact and illnesses if swallowed. Not all blue-green algae blooms and scums are toxic, but you can’t tell just by looking at them, so it’s best to assume they are.
The Environment Agency are continuing to sample water from Lake Ullswater to continually monitor the situation and have asked members of the public who see blue-green-algae to contact them via their incident hotline number: 0800 80 70 60 (24 hours).
Eden District Council’s Environmental Health Team has issued the following public safety advice:
- Do not currently swim or bathe or drink water from Lake Ullswater
- Don’t let animals swim, bathe or drink water from Lake Ullswater
How blue-green algae can affect humans
People who have swam through or swallowed algal scum can suffer from the following conditions: skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and muscle and joint pain. Please note these haven’t led to long-term effects or death but, in
some cases, the illnesses were severe. So please consult a doctor if you are affected and say that you have been in contact with blue-green algae on Lake Ullswater.
How blue-green algae can affect animals
The toxins the algae may produce are also toxic to animals and can cause severe illness and death. Farmers and pet owners should keep their animals away from affected waters. If you have concerns that your animal/s have been affected by the algae contact a VET.
Health and Safety Advice for Businesses and Event Organisers
If you are a business or community organisation who operate or have an event planned around Lake Ullswater and need health and safety advice contact your Health and Safety Enforcement Authority – this can be the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) www.hse.gov.uk or the Council’s Environmental Health Team on 01768 817817.
Whilst visitors need to be aware currently of the presence of blue green algae in Ullswater and the potential effects that it can have, Ullswater is a fantastic place to visit and enjoy in this spell of great weather with its outstanding natural beauty. With a fantastic range of attractions, lovely places to stay and a wide range of eating experiences on offer- find out more at www.visiteden.co.uk or visit the local Tourist Information Centres.
For more information on blue-green algae visit the Environment Agency website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/algal-blooms-advice-for-the-public-and-landowners/algal-blooms-advice-for-the-public-and-landowners#algal-blooms-in-inland-waters
Water is a precious resource and it is always helpful, in terms of future supplies and protecting the environment, for everyone to follow advice on saving water from their water company and use water wisely– especially during a period of dry weather.
Advice on what to look out for, and the effects of blue-green algae, can be found here: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/caringfor/policies/algae