Monday, August 26, 2019

Toxic Algae found in WSSC Reservoirs

August is just getting worse for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). In addition to the 90 water main breaks month to date- double the rate last August, more than 5 million gallons of untreated sewage released to Broad Creek earlier this month and now, WSSC found toxic algae in their reservoirs.

Last week WSSC announced that they had detected high concentrations of blue-green algae in the T. Howard Duckett and Triadelphia Reservoirs.  Algae blooms also called dead zones form in summers when higher temperatures reduce the oxygen holding capacity of the water, the air is still and especially in years of heavy rains that carry excess nutrient pollution from cities, suburban lawns and farms. The excess nutrient pollution combined with mild weather encourages the explosive growth of algae fed by excessive nutrient pollution.

Only certain species of blue-green algae form the toxin, for reasons that aren't fully understood. Toxic algae blooms, the ones that contain microcystis, a type of blue-green algae, produce microcystine or cyanobacteria toxins, that can lead to the poisoning of fish, shellfish, birds, livestock, domestic pets and other aquatic organisms that can lead to human health impact from eating fish or shellfish exposed to toxins as well as drinking water contaminated by toxins.

Both reservoirs that have been impacted with the toxic blue-green algae are located along the Patuxent River, and serve as drinking water sources for WSSC and recreational areas for hiking, fishing and boating. WSSC emphasizes that their drinking water has not been affected and continues to meet all Safe Drinking Water Act standards. WSSC is closely monitoring water quality conditions at its Patuxent Water Filtration Plant.

WSSC’s Triadelphia Reservoir, this area is not open to the public at this time, it has been closed due to ongoing dam work. All recreation areas, boat ramps and public access to this reservoir are closed.

Visitors to WSSC’s Duckett Reservoir should do the following:
  • Avoid all water contact. If water contact occurs, rinse off immediately with clean water.
  • Do not allow pets to swim in or drink the water (prohibited at all times by WSSC watershed regulations). Keep children and pets away from the water. Toxic algae can stink, smelling nauseating to people, but can be attractive to animals like dogs.
  • Do not consume fish livers or digestive organs from fish caught in the reservoir. If a fish is caught in the reservoir, wash fillets thoroughly with drinking water, properly clean fish by removing skin and discarding all internal organs, and cooking fish to the proper temperature.
  • If you, your kids or your animals experience symptoms after being near an algae bloom, seek immediate medical/veterinarian care. Symptoms: Human contact with Toxic Algae can cause rashes, stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs can show symptoms including staggering, drooling, breathing difficulty, convulsions or seizures.
WSSC permit holders at the Duckett Reservoir are allowed to use the picnic areas and hike on designated trails. Signs will be posted throughout both reservoirs to make visitors aware of this water contact health advisory. For safety, you should leave your pets at home and possible think of another activity. In the event that you, your pet, or someone you know has contacted or ingested water at either reservoir, WSSC suggests you call your local Health Department:
  • Montgomery County: 240-777-0311 (Montgomery County 311)
  • Prince George’s County: 301-883-4748 (Prince George’s County 311)
  • Howard County: 410-313-1773 (Community Hygiene Department)

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