The Oregon Health Authority announced that it is extending the health advisory for the Agency and Upper Klamath lakes regarding the presence of toxic blue-green algae in the water. The agency said that the public warning now includes the Klamath River down to the state line of California.

The agency's Public Health Division released the original health advisory on July 28 after the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and PacifiCorp discovered the formation of blue-green algae in the water of the two lakes.

The organisms have produced concentrations of toxins known as cyanotoxins, which are considered to be harmful to animals and humans.

Aside from the Agency and Upper Klamath lakes, the extended advisory now includes other areas such as the Link River, Lake Ewauna, Klamath River, the Keno area and the J.C. Boyle Reservoir near the border with California.

The Oregon Health Authority said that additional samples retrieved from the J.C. Boyle Reservoir also tested positive for high levels of toxins that are harmful to the health of humans.

On its official website, the Klamath Basin Monitoring Program stated that algae health advisories were also posted on all access points to the Copco Reservoir since June 30.

Watershed stewardship coordinator Clayton Creager for the Northern California Regional Water Quality Control Board said that the health advisory covers the bridge on Interstate 5, which bisects the Klamath River.

The formation of algal scums in the Klamath River, from Roy Rook down to its estuary in California, led monitors of water quality to place warnings in order to prevent people from being exposed to the toxic blue-green algae.

State and federal officials have already observed the poor quality of water in the area during their monitoring of fish runs in the Klamath River. Increased temperatures and low water flows have resulted in the formation of a deadly parasite called Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis).

The Ich parasite is known to cause large-scale fish-kills, such as during the mass die-off of over 35,000 adult steelhead and chinook salmon in the Klamath River in 2002.

Matt Baun, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency, said that as conditions in the river continue to deteriorate, high amounts of organic matter, such as algae, in the water could lead to a reduction of dissolved oxygen and add to the current stress placed on the local fish population.

Health experts strongly advise people to avoid inhaling or swallowing water contaminated with blue-green algae. They also warn about drinking water collected from areas covered by the algae health advisory. Exposure to the toxic algae can also cause rashes, especially on people with sensitive skin.

Photo: David Simmonds | Flickr 

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