Time to scrub up on toxic algae urges Greater Wellington

  • Published Date 18 Oct 2021
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Summer swimmers, dog owners and the community should be scrubbing up on spotting toxic algae as we approach the warmer months and our refreshing rivers beckon.

Toxic algae is harmful to people and deadly to dogs, so owners need to take the lead and check either the LAWA website or Greater Wellington’s safe to swim webpage before getting in the water.

“Dogs like the smell and taste of toxic algae mats. Scarier still, an amount as small as a 50 cent piece, is enough to kill a dog” says Dr Evan Harrison, Team Leader of Marine and Freshwater.

Vigilance is key as dogs are likely to sniff out the leathery dark green or black toxic algal mats which can wash up at river edges.

Prevention however, is better than any treatment so checking for warnings online before swimming and letting your dog in the water is paramount says Dr Harrison.

Greater Wellington also urges caution to members of the public.

The risk for dogs is higher but we also need to take care ourselves and our tamariki. The danger is still there for us”.

Awareness for summer swimmers and people with dogs about toxic algae is supported by Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA), who provide a platform for swimming water quality data and warnings across New Zealand.

“Water quality sampling is routinely conducted at over 80 freshwater and coastal sites region wide. It’s this data which is shared” says Sheryl Miller, Senior Advisor, Environment.

Rather than rely solely on physical monitoring results, Greater Wellington uses a ‘risk model’ to identify safe swimming levels.

This takes into account changes in water quality due to rainfall and the ‘long term condition of the site”.

Communities can be sure that they are seeing up-to-date information about the suitability for swimming at popular swimming sites” says Sheryl Miller.

Members of the public who think they or their dogs have swallowed toxic algae should seek urgent medical attention by dialling 111 and for their dogs, take it immediately to the nearest vet.

Learn more out toxic algae.

Check for toxic algae alerts at the LAWA website.

Updated October 18, 2021 at 2:35 PM

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