ADA AND ELMORE COUNTIES — Officials from the Central District Health Department and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a health advisory Wednesday for Mountain Home Reservoir in Elmore County and the Indian Creek and Blacks Creek Reservoirs in Ada County. Residents are urged to use caution when recreating in or near the water.
“Recent samples taken from the three water bodies indicate high concentrations of toxin-producing cyanobacteria, which can be harmful to people, pets, and livestock,” said Central District Health Department spokesperson Christine Myron. “Those with liver or kidney damage are at an increased risk of illness.”
Officials say water samples were taken from recreational access areas along each of the reservoir banks, which included dried algae. Due to the low amount of water currently in each of the reservoirs, they say it is likely the harmful algal blooms cover the entirety of each reservoir.
Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies. When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom -- and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water. Blooms can vary in appearance; they may look like mats, foam, spilled paint, or surface scum, and have a foul odor. “While blooms can be discovered in one area of recreational water, they can move around to different areas, water depths and can change in severity,” Myron said.
When recreating near or in Mountain Home, Indian Creek and Blacks Creek Reservoirs, health experts are warning everyone to take the following precautions:
-Avoid swimming, wading, or other activities in the water. Take extra precautions to ensure children, pets, and livestock are not exposed to the water.
-Do not drink or cook with water containing a bloom. Boiling and filtering the water can increase the risk.
-Wash your hands thoroughly after handling fish caught in water experiencing a bloom. Cyanotoxins can accumulate in fish and the risk to people is being researched. “Any fish caught should be cleaned and washed thoroughly in uncontaminated water, and any internal organs disposed of before consumption. If you choose to eat fish from this area, filet the fish and remove all of the fat, skin, and organs before cooking,” Myron stated.
-Clean with potable water as soon as possible if water contacts skin or pet fur.
Symptoms of cyanotoxin exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and/or wheezing. More severe symptoms affecting the liver and nervous system may result from ingesting water. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare provider.
Health Department officials say they will tell us when the bacteria concerns no longer exists.
(photo courtesy: Central District Health Department)