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The Greater Wellington Regional Council, local councils and Regional Public Health are urging river users to protect themselves and their dogs from toxic algae, with an increase of algal growth detected in the Hutt River this week.
Toxic algae – or cyanobacteria – forms brown or black clumps that are found in rivers and the river’s edge, and can kill livestock and dogs. If your dog eats toxic algae, it can die very quickly. Contact with toxic algae can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and skin irritations in humans.
The Regional Council’s weekly river monitoring has shown increased coverage of toxic algae at its Birchville, Maoribank and Silverstream monitoring sites along the Hutt River, presenting a potential risk to river users. The Hutt and Upper Hutt city councils are putting up warning signs along key access points to the Hutt River.
Summer Greenfield, Regional Council Senior Environmental Scientist, says that toxic algae occurs naturally in many New Zealand waters.
“The presence doesn’t necessarily indicate poor water quality – toxic algae can be present in rivers where the water quality is good. However, there’s often an increase in toxic algae during summer because it’s warmer, river flows and levels are usually lower, and there’s less frequent rain to flush the algae away. These are the conditions that we’re already experiencing and that are likely to continue with NIWA [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] forecasting an increased likelihood of below average rainfall over the next few months.”
Keep you and your dog safe from toxic algae this summer: