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Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are readily present in bodies of water throughout the United States. AES has seen a sharp increase in the presence of cyanobacteria over the last three years. Cyanobacteria blooms can appear as bluish-green surface scums or thick mats. Some species will form surface scums and become highly concentrated in windblown areas of lakes. This scum will look very similar to tree pollen on the water surface that we commonly see in the spring months, but these scums will be green or bluish green in color.
Caution should be taken around cyanobacteria infestations to avoid exposure and resultant potential health risks. Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can pose significant risks to humans and wildlife. These toxins include: hepatotoxins (impacts liver/kidney), neurotoxins (impacts brain), dermatitis toxins (impacts skin, digestive system), and gastrointestinal toxins (impacts digestive system). Animal mortalities from cyanobacteria toxin exposure have, in part, included: cattle, dogs, swine, and ducks. Human exposure is commonly from inhalation of aerosolized toxins, ingestion/consumption of contaminated water/algae cells, or recreational skin contact with cyanobacteria infestations.
Other concerns regarding cyanobacteria growth is that cyanobacteria does not help increase fish production and can out compete more beneficial green phytoplankton species. The cyanobacteria can quickly become too abundant creating “pea soup green” water which will increase oxygen demand likely leading to fish kills.