dog in lake

Dogs love swimming in the water. This shot of Bonnie Plikaytis’ dog was taken before there was any threat of blue-green algae.

POA to test water samples from Big Canoe lakes for blue-green algae

BY BONNIE PLIKAYTIS

Recent reports of dog deaths in North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia linked to the ingestion of blue-green algae from lakes and ponds has caused concern among dog owners and residents of Big Canoe. To determine a baseline of blue-green algae levels in the Big Canoe lakes, the POA has contracted with Aquatic Environmental Services, Inc. of Ball Ground to take water samples and have them analyzed. Each of the four lakes, Petit, Disharoon, Sconti and BlackwellSprings/Toads pond will be tested. This information will be shared with property owners as soon as Aquatic Environmental Services Inc. makes it available to the POA.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) harmful algal blooms, an overgrowth of algae in water, are a problem in all 50 states. Recent reports of pet deaths have been attributed to blue-green algae also known as cyanobacteria. Blooms are the result of several factors; sunlight, slow moving water, and nutrient pollution (nitrogen and phosphorus). Warm water, excess nutrients from runoff of lawns and farmland, and flow alterations can lead to more severe blooms more often. Most cyanobacteria blooms occur in late summer or early fall when the water temperatures are higher. Once a bloom forms, it may persist for several weeks or rapidly move and dissipate within hours. Visual signs of a bloom are greenish-blue color and a scummy appearance that looks like paint on the water’s surface.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins such as microcystins and anatoxins that affect people, livestock, wildlife, and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water. In dogs, clinical signs of poisoning are dependent on the toxin involved. Microcystins can result in liver damage or failure. Some of the signs of liver damage include vomiting, diarrhea, black tarry stools, jaundice, weakness, seizures, coma, and shock. Death generally follows within days as a result of liver failure. Anatoxins result in neurotoxicity evidenced by hypersalivating, excessive eye tearing, neurologic signs including muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, or paralysis, and difficulty breathing. Death follows within minutes to hours of exposure as a result of respiratory paralysis.

While most cyanobacteria blooms do not produce toxins, it is not possible to determine the presence of toxins without testing. Thus, all blooms should be considered potentially toxic. Small exposures, such a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water, may result in fatal poisoning. As the EPA recommends, “When in doubt, stay out!”

Ed. note: For additional information provided by The Coastal Management Program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources” go to https://www.gachd.org/Blue-Green%20Algae%20FAQ.pdf Website for more information about blue-green algae include www-cyanosite.bio.purdue.edu/

shutterstock 1413314441Algae

This photo was not taken in Big Canoe. It is an example to show people what the blue-green algae may look like.

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