Columbia River shoreline closed; toxic algae found

algae Columbia River Shoreline Closed neurotoxin found
Public notice posted by Benton-Franklin Health District

KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Benton-Franklin Health District is warning the public to stay out of the water along the Columbia River shoreline in the Tri-Cities due to toxic bacteria commonly referred to as blue-green algae.

BFHD posted a public notice minutes ago, warning people and their pets that the Columbia River shoreline is closed — “effective immediately due to toxic algae bloom.”

The toxic algae is blamed for killing four dogs that died shortly after a dip in the Columbia within the past several days

The health district has now closed the shoreline. The closure runs south of the Howard Amon park boat launch to the confluence of the Yakima River, affecting the Richland and Kennewick riverside areas. You’ll see signs at local parks warning about the risk.

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BFHD spoke with KAPP-KVEW about warning signs that you should stay out of the water.

Toxic algae is a type of bacteria that can attack your nervous system if you swallow it by accident.

“Sometimes they can be blueish, sometimes they can be brownish, and honestly it just looks like the water is not right,” said the health district’s Rick Dawson. “They actually are a cyanobacteria – not necessarily algae.”

Water tests have now determined there is a big problem in the water.

“Test results found dangerous levels of cyanobacteria,” the warning reads. “Neurotoxin (Anatoxin-a) is especially dangerous for small children and animals.”

More from the health district:

  • Symptoms appear 15-20 minutes after ingestion
  • IN PEOPLE: numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness
  • IN ANIMALS: weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, death
  • Stay out of the water! BFHD is testing weekly until levels are determined safe

BFHD concluded its notice with this warning: “EXPOSURE CAN BE FATAL”

We do want to point out that the health department says everybody getting their tap water from the Columbia is safe; the water processing system tests it — and cleans it — before it gets to your faucet.

The health district is asking you to keep yourselves, your children and your pets away from the shoreline until the signs are removed.

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