Kentucky broadens toxic algae warning for the Ohio River - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky broadens toxic algae warning for the Ohio River

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Clusters of potentially harmful algae continue to move down the Ohio River, prompting Kentucky to expand a warning to swimmers, boaters and others using the river.

The state Division of Water and Department for Public Health on Friday issued an advisory for recreational users of the river from the West Virginia state line to the Markland Dam near Warsaw, about 75 miles upstream of Louisville.

The agencies said in a news release that new test results indicate the need to add more miles of the river to the advisory, which was announced Sept. 4 and went to the Meldahl Dam in Bracken County. The first report of a “harmful" algae bloom in Kentucky was near Greenup on Aug. 31, according to the state.

The warning was expanded “because of the current risk for elevated levels of microcystin toxins in the Ohio River and tributaries,” according to the news release. It says swallowing river water may increase nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and other symptoms, in addition to skin, ear and throat irritation.

The blooms typically appear as discolorations in lakes and rivers that resemble streaks of spilled paint. Sunlight, stagnant or slow-moving water and nutrients such as nitrogen help create them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The advisory doesn’t apply to drinking water, but the Division of Water says it has been monitoring raw and treated water at public water systems along the river.

The Louisville Water Company has not detected any algae blooms at its plants and customers have no reason to worry, spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said.

“They’ve seen no toxins at the intakes and even if we did the carbon and the chlorine would get it,” she said.

Concentrations of the microcystin toxins above 20 micrograms per liter are considered unsafe for recreational use, meaning people could become sick if they unintentionally swallow water, said Andrea Keatley, water quality branch manager at the Division of Water.

Tests by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission detected levels of 17.6 micrograms per liter on Tuesday at Markland Dam. About 15 miles to the east, the levels were 273 micrograms per liter.

Keatley said low levels of the toxins have been found in the Louisville area. The river commission tested the river just upstream of Louisville on Wednesday and found levels less than .15 micrograms per liter.

In August 2014, Ohio officials warned Toledo not to drink tap water after algae blooms on Lake Erie tainted the city's water supply.

There are no current advisories for harmful algae blooms on Kentucky lakes near Louisville, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville.

While fast-moving rivers usually prevent algae blooms from forming, Keatley said they’re not uncommon.

“We’re in dry conditions right now,” she said. “Flow has decreased and water temperatures are a little higher.”

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