Blue-Green algae in flood waters can be harmful to people, pets

Blue-green algae blooming in Alexander Co. floodwaters can be toxic

ALEXANDER COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A potentially toxic scum is starting to show up in flood waters across the Heartland and the sludge can be harmful to people and animals.

It’s called blue-green algae. In most cases it’s harmless, but if the green goo festers in the summer sun it can produce toxins that spread quickly in shallow surface water.

The algae is starting to show up in flooded areas of Northern Alexander County, IL.

High water is surrounding James Kim Matlock’s home in McClure, and layers of blue-green algae are starting to form on the edge.

“This water it’s got a little bit of everything in it. I mean everything from feces to fertilizer," Matlock said. “I never thought anything about the algae. I’ve had it for years, I’ve lived here all my life.”

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is warning right now water conditions are ideal for this algae to grow and form a toxic layer called a Harmful Algal Bloom.

Matlock is concerned the algae could hurt his 8-year-old chocolate lab Bubba, who just went through surgery to remove on lump on his back.

“Vet visits are not cheap. It’s been hard to keep Bubba out of the water but that right there could be a problem," Matlock said. "You’ve got a wound and if it gets into this algae you’re talking about it could get bad for him.”

The Illinois EPA says exposure to the algae can cause issues like skin irritation, nausea, vomiting throat irritation, allergic reactions, or difficulty breathing.

If you swallow a large amount it can impact your liver and nervous system.

That's why Matlocks is now planning to be more cautious.

“Now that i am learning more about it I’ll try to rinse off when i come out of the water to make sure I do not have it on me and also my dog," Matlock said. "Because he is going to follow me and I don’t care if I go waste deep he is going to follow me. I do rinse him off also when he comes in.”

A good rule of thumb to follow is when in doubt stay out of water that is discolored or has scum on the surface.

If you start to have symptoms the best thing to do is see a doctor or bring your pet to a veterinarian.

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