Beware: blue-green algae again found at Chasewater

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The algae is a natural occurrence, but can be deadly for dogs and very unpleasant for humans. Photo taken 24th July 2016 at Chasewater, by me.

This is an important one for dog-walkers and users of Chasewater in general who may let dogs swim in the water – blue green algae has once more been found in the lake in the last few days after an earlier outbreak this year, and Staffordshire County Council yesterday (26th August 2016) issued a warning to park users.

While the naturally occurring algae is present, people are warned not to let their dogs swim in the water, and not to bathe there (although that’s never recommended) – signs have again been put up warning of the hazard.

Staffordshire County Council said:

Chasewater visitors advised on blue-green algae

Visitors to Chasewater are being advised not to take a dip or let their pets go in the water this Bank Holiday as a purely precautionary measure.

A small amount of suspected blue-green algae blooms have again appeared on the lake, and ecologists are asking people to follow advice on posters at the site while testing continues.

Blue-green algae is a common form of bacteria that occurs naturally in inland waters, estuaries and the sea. Blooms usually form in shallow water that is subject to strong sunlight, and are a blue/green colour.

If the blue-green blooms are swallowed, they can cause stomach upsets in humans and more serious illnesses in pets.

As the suspected algae blooms are only in small areas around the circumference of the lake, this means the sailing, water-skiing and Wakelake activities are unaffected.

County Councillor Gill Heath, Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “We have tested the water we suspect has blue-green algae blooms in it, but we won’t have these test results until sometime next week. Therefore, we think it’s best to let visitors to the site know we suspect its blue-green algae so they can take sensible precautions. It’s fairly common and tends to come and go itself, and we suspect the growth is likely just a natural result of the warmer weather we’ve had.

‘Chasewater is not a swimming lake and people shouldn’t be diving in for a swim at any time, but it does get popular on Bank Holidays when the weather is good. The algae will only cause upset if it is ingested, so we’re just advising people not to swim or let their pets swim in water where algae blooms obviously present.’

Chasewater rangers will continually be monitoring the situation, and signs will be taken down at the site once the all-clear is given.

The algae is a natural occurrence, common in outdoor waters at this time of year. The Environment Agency explains this organic growth:

Blue-green algae naturally occur in inland waters, estuaries and the sea. Blooms can form when their numbers become excessive.

There’s a wide range of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). In fresh waters, they’re suspended within the water or attached to rocks and other surfaces. They include single- celled species and others whose cells are arranged in colonies and filaments. It’s difficult to see individual cells, colonies and filaments, but you usually can when they’re concentrated into clumps. These clumps can look like green flakes, greenish bundles or brownish dots.

Where high levels of phosphorus exist, and other requirements for growth are met – for example, adequate light, mixing, flow and temperature – then the numbers of blue- green algae can increase. Increased periods of growth are called blooms.

Blooms can have a negative effect on the appearance, quality and use of the water. It may become green, blue-green or greenish- brown and several species can produce musty, earthy or grassy odours. Blooms can also cause foaming on the shoreline – sometimes confused with sewage pollution.

During a bloom, the water also becomes less clear, blocking sunlight and stopping plants in the water from growing.

There’s nothing that can practically be done to counter this problem in the water, and caution is advised until the danger passes.

Blue-Green algae can be quite toxic to humans upon ingestion, and can be deadly to dogs. If your pet enjoys a swim, Chasewater should be avoided for the foreseeable future, and it’s definitely not good for human swimming (although it’s not for casual swimming at the best of times!)

If you suspect your dog has been made ill by algal poisoning, there’s a help guide here. for people concerned about wake boarding or other Chasewater based waterspouts, best contact the relevant club or operator for guidance.

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There are lots of new ‘No swimming’ notices, but a few of the blue-green algae warning ones too. This one was on the life lifebelt post near the dam bridge and steps, a popular spot for dog swimming.

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