Blue-green algae warning for Waranga Basin ahead of the long weekend

By Myles Peterson

Waranga Basin may still be contaminated by blue-green algae this long weekend, according to Goulburn-Murray Water.

The recreational site was declared hazardous last Friday, when G-MW issued an algae bloom warning.

G-MW water quality co-ordinator Bianca Atley warned water users to be careful and take precautions if they were planning on spending their long weekend at the basin.

‘‘We’ve issued a warning for blue-green algae there and we’re advising the public to avoid contact with the water,’’ she said.

‘‘That doesn’t mean don’t go there — just be careful when interacting with the water. You can go boating and go fishing, just make sure you bring a supply of water.

‘‘What you should do if you get in contact with the contaminated water (is) use your (clean) water to wash it off. The algae have contact irritants. They can cause rashes or if you get it on your hands and touch your eyes, you can get conjunctivitis or eye infections.’’

An algae expert, Ms Atley supplied a host of details not normally found in the notices warning about the toxic organisms.

Despite the name, blue-green algae is often not blue, green or even visible to the naked eye.

‘‘Blue-green algae don’t just colour the water blue or green. They can be any colour. In the case of this particular algae they are in high levels of no colour at all,’’ she said.

Due to these factors, the public was better off heeding warnings rather than trying to determine the risk of an outbreak themselves, Ms Atley said.

‘‘Unless you have microscope eyes, you can’t use your own visual cues,’’ she said.

Another peculiarity of the algae is that warm or hot water can make it more dangerous.

‘‘Traditionally, when you boil water it gets rid of bacteria, but with algae, the heat bursts the cells open and releases the toxins which makes it worse,’’ she said.

Blue-green algae should always be treated with cold, uncontaminated water, according to Ms Atley, to prevent any toxin release.

Other warnings issued by G-MW included:

●People and pets should avoid any contact with affected waterways.

●People who come into contact with affected water should wash affected skin immediately in clean, cold water.

●Seek an alternative water supply for stock and pets.

●Do not use affected water for cooking, drinking, washing or showering.

It is not possible to predict how long the algae levels will remain high. G-MW will continue testing the water and will notify the public via traditional media and social media when levels are considered safe again.

Other waterways managed by G-MW to experience outbreaks in the past few weeks include the Rochester irrigation area, Central Goulburn irrigation area, Loddon Valley irrigation area, West Loddon Water District and Lake Eppalock.