Toxic algae blooms across the region - check before you swim and keep dogs on leashes

  • Published Date 07 Jan 2021

Greater Wellington is urging the community to check for LAWA website warnings and alerts, following the emergence of a toxic algal blooms at Waipoua River, Te Awa Kairangi - Hutt River and the Pakuratahi River at Kaitoke campground.

Toxic algae is a reoccurring issue for our region's fresh waterways when water temperatures warm and water levels lower.

For the Waipoua River, Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River from Birchville to Manor Park, and Pakuratahi River at Kaitoke campground, Greater Wellington advises the public not to swim and to keep dogs on leashes. This is especially important for the Waipoua River.

Greater Wellington senior environmental scientist, Dr Mark Heath says, "Toxic algae has increased to dangerous red alert levels in the Waipoua River over the last week, with detached mats washing up at the river's edge so we strongly advise against swimming and letting your dog off the leash. It is very likely as the weather gets warmer that this risk will increase."

"It's important we all scrub up on the facts so we can all keep safe this summer, as toxic algae can be harmful to people and dogs.

"Algal mats grow on the rocks in the riverbed and form leathery dark green or black mats, which van break off and accumulate at river edges. As the algal mats dry out they can become light brown colour, and have a distinctive deep earthy or musty smell," says Dr Heath.

Dogs are mostly at risk because they like the smell and taste of toxic algae. Even a small amount - about the size of a 50 cent piece, can be enough to kill a dog.

Owners especially need to be vigilant of their dogs sniffing out toxic algal mats which can wash up at river edges.

Toxic algae isn't the only harmful thing lurking in our water this summer, as bacteria from leaking pipes or run-off after heavy rain can contaminate swimming areas.

"In general, a good rule of thumb is to stay out of fresh or sea water for 48 hours after rain, and always check for warning signs," adds Dr Heath.

Greater Wellington monitors popular swimming spots on a fortnightly basis to make sure the community knows when it's safe to swim. To check if an area is suitable for swimming see the LAWA website.

It's important the community keeps informed by checking LAWA alerts and following warning signs, so we can all look after our whanau and beloved pets this summer.

If you have been in contact with toxic algae and are feeling unwell see you doctor or ring Healthline 0800 611 116. Seek urgent medical attention for anyone with breathing difficulties or convulsions. If you think your dog has swallowed toxic algae, take it to the nearest vet immediately.

Learn more about toxic algae >

Check for toxic algea alerts at the LAWA website >

Updated March 30, 2022 at 3:36 PM

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