Paddling races on Ohio River postponed because of algae bloom - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Paddling races on Ohio River postponed because of algae bloom

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A paddling event scheduled for this weekend on the Ohio River has been pushed back two weeks because of concerns over toxic algae blooms.

The Riverthon, which includes four kayak, canoe and paddleboard races on the Louisville-area stretch of the river, now will take place Oct. 17, said David Wicks, one of the organizers.

Wicks said the event’s planners made the decision after considering warnings issued by the Kentucky Division of Water. Kentucky is one of four states that have advised people using the river to avoid coming into contact with the water because of the blooms, which were first noticed in August.

The Kentucky advisory stretches from the West Virginia state line to the Cannelton Locks and Dam in Hancock County – an area that includes Cincinnati and Louisville.

“With colder weather and hopefully a little bit of current in the river, we should be clean and ready to go on the 17th,” Wicks said.

But the Kentucky advisory didn’t persuade Metro Parks to change its Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure Event on the river this Friday and Saturday. Participants will use high-walled, 24-foot-long Voyageur canoes and launch from Shawnee and Riverview parks.

Parks officials “very carefully considered” river conditions and recent water samples before making a decision, spokesman Jon Reiter said.

Reiter said people who swim or come into contact with river water are more likely to have exposure to the blue-green algae blooms, which are linked to skin irritation, respiratory problems and stomach ailments.

“We just don’t feel like the people who are going to attend this event will get that kind of exposure in the river,” he said.

Recent tests of the Ohio near Louisville have found levels of toxins within the recommended levels, according to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, an eight-state agency that monitors the river's water quality.

The Ironman triathlon hasn’t announced any changes to its Oct. 10 race in Louisville, which includes an Ohio River swimming segment. Karl F. Schmitt Jr., president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission, said officials continue to monitor the river.

The blooms occur when the river and its tributaries get excess nutrients, such as agricultural fertilizer, eroded soil and discharges from wastewater treatments plants.

The Kentucky Waterways Alliance, a water policy advocacy group, said in a blog post Monday that Kentucky has begun placing "more significant limits" on nutrient pollution from wastewater treatment plants and urged farmers to apply fewer nutrients to their land.

"But the fact of the matter is that we are still significantly behind some other states on figuring out ways to better protect our waterways from nutrient pollution and other types of pollution as well," the post said.

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